The Vance Family, p. 54

THE VANCE FAMILY, of Somerset and South Strabane townships. The name Vance belongs to the Scotch-Irish immigration to America during the first half of the eighteenth century.

ORIGIN OF THE NAME.A few years ago a very industrious and enthusiastic chronicler came from the North of Ireland to gather up, if possible, the history of the Vance family in this country. He received but few responses to his letters, and gave up the task in despair. He had carefully studied shire, county and parish records in Scotland and Ireland, and published what he deemed a correct account of the family in those lands. According to his research, the early ancestor came to England at the time of the Norman conquest in the eleventh century. The name has passed through the following changes: Latin, Vallibus; French, DeVaux; in England and Scotland, DeVaux, Vaux, Vauss, Vaus, Vans, and in the North of Ireland, Vance. He quotes the antiquarian George Chalmers, as saying: "A branch of the English family of Vaux or Vallibus settled in the south of Scotland and became progenitors of several respectable families of that name;" and the antiquarian, Sir James Dalrymple as saying: "The ancient surname of Vans in the later charters, called DeVallibus, is the same with the name Vaux in England, and is one of the first surnames that appeared there after the Conquest." In Scottish heraldry it is recorded that "few of the ancient names of Scotland can trace their origin to so distinguished a foreign source as that of Vans, or more properly Vaus or DeVaux." The Gazeteer of Scotland says: "In the twelfth century the Anglo-Norman family of DeVallibus or DeVaux obtained a grant of the manors of Golyn and Dirleton and parts of Fenton." . . . "In 1298 De Vaux's castle at Dirleton was besieged and taken by Antony Beck the martial bishop of Durham." . . . "William De Vaux bestowed the church of Golyn on the Monks of Dryburgh." . . . "Alexander DeVallibus founded a chapel at Dirleton in the reign of Alexander III. The home of the family at Dirleton, in East Lothian was transferred to Barnborroch, or Kirkinner, in Wigtonshire." In the line of descent the chronicler finds lords and bishops before the Reformation, and friends of the Covenanters after that period.

The first known ancestor in Ireland was a clergyman, the Rev. John Vans. G. W. Vance, of Dublin, who wrote an account, says he was a Puritan minister and settled in Coleraine. William Balbirnie, the writer before referred to, says he was an Episcopal clergyman who was rector of the church of Kilmacreenan, in Donegal, diocese of Raphoe, from 1617 until his death in 1661. It will be remembered that the plantation of Ulster by James I in which the forfeited estates were peopled by colonists from Scotland and England began in 1610. The large majority came from Scotland, hence the Scotch-Irish. The Rev. John Vans was one of the earliest colonists. His will, probated July 26, 1662, is signed Jo Vauss, and, in the Record of the Rolls in Dublin Castle, is printed "Rev. John Vans, A. M." The seal on his will in red wax is that of the Barnbarroch arms. If any ambitious young Vance should suddenly grow rich and need a coat of arms, let him study heraldry, and follow this description: "Argent, on a bend, gules, three mollets."

A son of Rev. John Vans, Dr. Lancelot Vance, was surgeon of a regiment and one of the defenders of Londonderry in the siege of 1689. The record quoted gives the names of a number of the Vances who were Presbyterian ministers, and of others who came to this country, but has no information as to where they located here. The "Test Act" and "Schism Act," enforced in Ulster, so proscribed Presbyterians and restricted their rights that from 1729 to 1750 about 12,000 annually came to America, some of the Vances joining in the exodus.

Families are known to have settled in New England, New Jersey and Virginia. The Rev. James I. Vance, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, of Norfolk, Va., speaking by authority, says: "The traditional three brothers came from the North of Ireland, and settled in the valley of Virginia. One went thence to North Carolina, and from him the North Carolina Vances are descended, among whom is Senator Zebulon B. Vance. Another brother went to Tennessee, and from him my family is descended." The Rev. Hugh Vance was pastor of the Tuscarora and Back Creek (Va.) Presbyterian Churches from 1771 till his death, December 31, 1791.

Two families of the Virginia Vances, from near Winchester, came to Washington county, Penn., in the "seventies" of the last century: William, born in 1718, to Cross Creek; John, born in 1730, to Somerset township. The exact relationship is not known. Gov. Joseph Vance, of Ohio, born in Washington county, Penn., March 21, 1786, Governor and Congressman from 1821 to 1847, was a grandson of William.

DESCENDANTS OF JOHN VANCE. John Vance was born in 1730. In the poverty of record the place of his birth, the names of his parents, brothers and sisters are not known. We know that his home in Virginia was near Winchester, and the traditions are that he was a man of sterling integrity. In the "seventies" of the last century he came with his two sons, then young men, to Western Pennsylvania, where they selected and made "tomahawk improvements" on lands which they afterward owned. John Vance in 1786 received a Virginia certificate for 343 acres of land called "Edgecomb," near the present village of Vanceville, in Somerset township. The tradition is that he always kept his home in Virginia, though he often visited his sons, and he died in Somerset township August 13, 1796, and was buried in Pigeon creek Presbyterian churchyard where his grave is distinctly marked. His wife, Isabella, died February 9, 1807. By his will he left his farm undivided to his sons John and Isaac, and made them executors of his will. The children of John Vance were as follows: (I). Nancy Vance, who was married to Samuel Sillik in 1775. They owned and lived on the farm immediately west of Vance Station. Samuel Sillik died in 1814, and soon after the family removed to Richland county, Ohio. The names and dates of birth of their children were: John, 1776; Mary, 1778; Isabel, 1779; Thomas, 1781; Samuel, 1785; Hannah, 1787; Isaac, 1789; Nancy, 1792. The mother seems not to have been living at the death of John Vance in 1796. He distributed, by his will, about 60 sterling among the children. We regret that we do not have accurate information concerning these families, but give what we have. (1) Mary Sillik was married to James Milligan; their daughter Lavinia was married to Thomas Nichols, Henderson county, Ill.; of their children were Martha Hearst, Garnett, Kans.; Mary J. Main, Stronghurst, Ill.; Harriet Chesney; Lieut. T. Vance Nichols, Bushnell, Ill.; Lavinia Thompson and Eliza Randall, Stronghurst, Ill. (2) Isabel Sillik was married to William Erskine, of Buffalo Creek, Washington county, in 1800, and their children were: John, of Ohio county, W. Va.; Hannah McNeill, of near Cincinnati, Ohio; Samuel, of near West Alexander; Margaret Provines, in Washington county; Robert, of near West Alexander; Isabel Rodgers, of Topeka, Kans.; Rev. William R., United Presbyterian minister, Monmouth, Ill.; Ebenezer S., of Monmouth, Ill., the only one now living. Samuel and Robert were elders in the United Presbyterian Church of West Alexander, Penn. William Erskine, of the law firm of Erskine & Allison, in Wheeling, W. Va., is a son of Robert. The Rev. James S. Erskine, a Presbyterian pastor in Orange county, N. Y., is a son of the Rev. William R. As the names indicate this family is descended from the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, founder of the Associate Presbyterian Church, of Scotland, in 1735. The Rev. William R. (deceased), of Monmouth, Ill., was a United Presbyterian minister. His son, Rev. James S. E., is a Presbyterian minister in Orange county, N. Y. William Erskine, an attorney in Wheeling, West Virginia, is a son of John. (3) Samuel Sillik of near Mansfield, Ohio, has a grandson, the Rev. Louis Day, who is a Baptist minister. (4) Nancy Sillik was married to Ross, and afterward to Steele, of Kentucky.

(II). His son John Vance took up a farm, on which he lived, on Chartiers creek, near Bridgeville, Allegheny county. He was an elder in Bethel Presbyterian Church during the pastorate of Rev. William Woods. He died November 9, 1812, and with his wife lies buried in Bethel churchyard. They had no children.

(III). Isaac Vance, the other son of John, Sr., had a large family. He was born in Virginia, February 11, 1754, and died in South Strabane township November 5, 1837, in his eighty-fourth year. On December 3, 1779, he received a Virginia certificate entitling him to a tract of land called "Edge Hill," situated on the fork of Pigeon creek in Somerset township, on which he lived till his removal to South Strabane township in 1810. Coming to the unprotected frontier when a young man, he entered with zest into the life of the pioneer. He was a man of great physical vigor and power of endurance, and a fine marksman. He belonged to that class of pioneers who always stood ready to repel an Indian invasion, and during the troublous times up to 1794 he responded to the frequent calls for men. History tells of the few large expeditions, but the story of the many lesser rallies for driving marauding bands of Indians from their despoiled homes has not been told. He belonged to Col. David Williamson's command, and was in Colonel Crawford's ill-fated expedition to Sandusky, Ohio, in 1782. That expedition of about four hundred men rendezvoused at Mingo Bottom, near Steubenville, Ohio, marched to Sandusky, where they met the Indians and their allies in overwhelming numbers, and were defeated. They retreated, followed by the enemy. Butterfield gives as an incident of their flight, that, in passing a deserted Indian sugar camp Isaac Vance seeing a copper kettle, dismounted, flattened it with a boulder, tied it to his saddle, kept it through the battle at Olentangy and brought it home. During the retreat the brave Colonel Crawford fell behind to find his missing son, was lost to the command, captured and put to death with the severest cruelty of Indian torture. About forty men were lost in the expedition. Possibly you may think that pioneer life was dull. Consider what happened between 1774 and 1794: (1) Dunmore's war; (2) constant picket duty against the Indians; (3) the war for Independence; (4) Crawford, Harmar's, St. Clair's and Wayne's expeditions; (5) Pennsylvania and Virginia State line troubles; (6) new State project; (7) erection of the county; (8) organization of the Republic; (9) adopting a State and Federal Constitution; (10) whiskey insurrection. These all in what led up to them or resulted from them engaged the energies of the intelligent pioneer, and gave themes for discussion about his cabin or camp-fire.

On November 15, 1783, Isaac Vance married Mary, daughter of Henry Cotton, of Bedford county. Henry Cotton was of Puritan ancestry. It is not known in what year he came to Washington county, but in 1783 he bought the claim of Joseph Alexander, of North Carolina, to 332 acres in South Strabane township for 415, "current funds of the commonwealth." In 1786 he secured a patent for the land. This patent is signed by Charles Biddle, vice-president of the Supreme Executive Council, John Armstrong, secretary; Matthew Irvin, master of rolls. On August 19, 1791, 286 acres of this land were conveyed to Hugh Cotton, son of Henry, for 300. Hugh was a bachelor, and one of the first elders in the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church, chosen in November, 1776. His brother John Cotton was a captain in the military forces of that day. In 1810 the Cotton family moved to that part of Mercer (now Lawrence) county, Penn., where their descendants are now living. Isaac Vance bought of Hugh Cotton, in 1810, the farm now owned by John Vance, at Vance Station on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, for $3,200. In 1827 it was bought by William Vance, and owned by him until his death in 1874. Mary Cotton Vance died November 9, 1830; Isaac died November 5, 1837. They had been permitted to enjoy forty-seven years of married life. They were of the original members of the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church, and enjoyed the ministry of that sterling man, Rev. Dr. John McMillan, by whom their children were baptized; afterward, in Washington, the successive ministries of the Rev. Drs. Matthew Brown, Obadiah Jennings and David Elliott. The theological teaching they thus received was abundant and perfectly sound. Of their children, Agnes, Hugh, Hannah, Rachel, Joseph, Margaret and Lydia died in early life. Their four sons who lived to maturity were all prosperous farmers, men of positive convictions and strict integrity, early advocates of the temperance cause, and became Free-soil men in the inception of that movement Three of them were elders of the Presbyterian Church. They had no ambition for public life or political preferment. In personal appearance they were tall, well proportioned and had dark hair and eyes. The daughters were married to prosperous farmers, and were Christian women of the best type.

(I). The oldest son, John Vance, was born August 23, 1784, died in 1839. He married Jane Kerr, of North Strabane township, and lived at the old homestead near Vanceville. He was chosen an elder of the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church in 1836, during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. W. C. Anderson. Of his children who lived to maturity were (1) James, who succeeded his father in possession of the farm; married Elizabeth Hart; was chosen elder of the Pigeon Creek Church in 1849; died in 1854, leaving five children. (2) Jane Vance, graduated at the Washington Seminary in 1848; was married to Logan Van Eman of North Strabane; died in 1877, leaving two daughters.

(II). Henry Vance was born March 1, 1787, died October 19, 1840. He owned and lived on the farm adjoining that of his brother John, now owned by his daughter, Sarah Scott. He was the captain of a military company which he led to Black Rock, N. Y., in the war of 1812. His first wife was Jane Hall, of Somerset township. His son (1) Isaac, died in early life. (2) Thomas graduated at Washington College in 1838, studied medicine and began the practice at Claysville but died soon afterward. (3) Sarah was married to John D. Scott, of Somerset township, and lives at the old homestead, her children married and in the neighborhood. Henry's second wife was Isabel Park, of Cecil township. Of her children (4) Martha became the wife of the Rev. J. R. Burgett, D. D., since 1860, pastor of the Government Street Presbyterian Church, of Mobile, Ala. Martha died December 17, 1856, leaving a daughter Anna, now the wife of the Rev. F. L. Ewing, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Covington, Tenn. (5) John Parke Vance was educated at Jefferson College. He lived for many years in Mansfield, Ohio, and married Ella Robinson of that place; was an elder of the Presbyterian Church. For twenty years he was engaged in business in Cincinnati, and lived at Wyoming. He died October 20, 1891, leaving a wife and three children. Henry Vance's third wife was Sarah Stockton, a sister of the Rev. John Stockton, D. D., of Cross Creek, Penn.

(III). Isabel Vance was born July 30, 1789, died in 1834; was married to John Scott, son of Josiah, who with his brother Hugh Scott came from York county in 1772. Hugh settled in Nottingham and Josiah in South Strabane, two miles east of Washington, where he owned a large tract of land. John Scott owned and lived on a part of this tract. In the epidemic of cholera in 1834 both John and Isabel, his wife, died after one day's sickness. Of their children (1) Josiah and (2) Vance died in early life. The daughters were educated at Washington Seminary, and (3) Mary Scott became the wife of the Rev. W. W. Colmery, D. D., of Oxford, Ohio; they have one daughter. (4) Jane Scott was married to William Mitchell, of St. Louis, Mo., they have five children. (5) Martha Scott was married to Workman Hughes, of Washington, Penn. (6) Isabel Scott was married to George Mitchell, of Memphis, Tenn.; they have five children.

(IV). Samuel Vance was born March 13, 1791 died February 25, 1874. He outlived all his brothers and sisters, and died at the age of eighty-three. At the age of nineteen (in 1810) he came to the farm in South Strabane township, on which he spent his life. In 1820 he married Martha Fife, of Allegheny county. In 1834, during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Elliott, he was chosen an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, and served until his death. His pastor, the Rev. J. I. Brownson, D. D., said: "He leaves the record of a consistent life, marked with a spirit of humble piety toward God, and of uprightness, benevolence and hospitality toward his follow men. In the community he had the confidence of his neighbors, and in the church his brethren loved and trusted him. His uniform influence was on the side of liberty, right and religion." Of his children (1) Mary was married to Jacob Moninger, they had four children; Mary died in 1856. (2) Margaret, married to Workman Hughes, and died in 1878. (3) Hannah, died July 15, 1873. (4) Isaac Vance, now of South Strabane, was captain of Company C, One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Regiment during the Civil war, and shared the fortunes of that regiment for a year and a half. He lost his left hand in the battle of Gettysburg, and afterward returned to the army, but after a few months resigned and was appointed deputy provost-marshal and recruiting agent of the Twenty-fourth District of Pennsylvania serving till the close of the war. (5) William Vance spent his life at the homestead and on the Scott farm. He married Nancy Dinsmore, of Hopewell township, and died April 30, 1872, leaving two sons. The second wife of Samuel Vance was Mary Fife, of Allegheny county, born August 14, 1799, died May 14, 1885. Her children were (6) Martha married to William Paul, of Franklin township, formerly an elder of the First and now of the Third Presbyterian Church of Washington. They have seven children. (7) The next son is the Rev. Joseph Vance, D. D., pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Chester, Penn. He graduated at Washington College and Allegheny Seminary. He married Mary H. Maddox, and, for his second wife, Sarah Maddox, of Vincennes, Ind. Of his three children, two are living. (8) John Vance, youngest son of Samuel, lives at the old homestead in South Strabane township, where he was born June 23, 1840. His education was received in the public schools of the neighborhood of his home. In 1883 he commenced, in connection with general farming, the business of stock-breeding, especially of Percheron horses. His farm comprises 286 acres of highly improved land, and he is deeply interested and engaged in the work thereon, proving a thorough business man, and enjoying the respect and esteem of all. He is a consistent member of the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, in which he has been an elder since 1878, having succeeded his father in that office; politically he is a Republican, and has ever taken an active interest in the affairs of the party. Like Isaac, he has never given a serious thought to the subject of matrimony.

(V). Mary Vance born July 31, 1792, was married to Samuel Davis of Somerset township. She died leaving two sons, (1) John and (2) Isaac.

(VI). Martha Vance, born October 23, 1795, died in 1860. She was married to David Riddle, of Somerset township, who was an elder of the Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church. In politics he was a Democrat. As a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1850 and 1855 he secured the passage of the Maine Liquor Law for Washington county. He died in 1863. Of their children: (1) Isaac Vance Riddle lives in Somerset township; married Leyda. They have three children. He was county commissioner, 1882-85 (2) Lavinia Riddle was married to Robert Adams. (3) Jane Riddle was married to Henry Leyda (they had one daughter). (4) Anderson removed to California. (5) Isabel Riddle is deceased. (6) Elizabeth and (7) Martha live in Monongahela City (Martha is married to William Hanna; they have two children).

(VII). Isaac Vance was born March 10, 1797, died June 12, 1846, married Isabel Riddle. He bought a farm near Bridgeville, Allegheny county, where he lived and died. He was an elder of the Bethany Presbyterian Church during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. William Jeffery. His children were (1) Lucinda, who died in early life. (2) A. Riddle Vance, who graduated in Jefferson College in 1846. As a civil engineer he assisted in the surveys of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, and was connected with the engineering corps of that road until his death. He married Melissa Foljamb, of Ravenna, Ohio; they had two children. (3) Joseph Vance married Harriet W. Hall, of Ravenna; they are now living in St. Paul, Minn. (have three children). (4) Isaac Vance lives in Ravenna, Ohio. He married Matilda J. Ney (they have two children). (5) Joshua died September 5, 1885. (6) Adaline Vance graduated at the Washington Seminary, and is married to the Rev. John W. Dinsmore, D. D., pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of San Jose, Cal. (they have four children).

It is thus seen that the descendants of Isaac Vance (son of John, Sr.) and Mary Cotton, his wife, are of Scotch-Irish and Puritan blood, about one hundred and sixty in number, and those living have their homes in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Colorado and California.

Text taken from page 54 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).

Transcribed April 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.
Published April 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at

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