South Strabane Twp. (pp. 952-960)

History of Washington County, Pennsylvania*

The old township of Strabane was one of the original townships of the county, and embraced the present territory of North and South Strabane, the township of Washington, and part of Canton township. The township of Washington was taken from it between 1785 and 1790, but the exact date has not been ascertained. At the March term of the Court of Quarter Sessions of 1790, there was presented a petition of "inhabitants of the townships of Strabane and Washington," praying for the division of Strabane into two townships by a division line running "along the Road leading from Redstone to the Town of Washington, and the Road from said Town to Wells' Mills, to cross Chartiers Creek at Pamphrey's Ford." The petition was granted and this certificate sent to the Executive Council. From the boundary mentioned it cannot be determined where the new township was located, nor can any knowledge of its existence as a township be obtained from record or recollection.

In December, 1792, there was presented to the Court of Quarter Sessions the following:

"The petition of sundery of the Inhabitants of the lower end of Strabane and upper end of Nottingham townships: Whereas a number of the Inhabitants of Nottingham township are within Washington election district and frequently attend at Washington at the annual election, and often without an Inspector, and we conceive some doubts may arise respecting the validity of their votes, we scarsly hint at things, not doubting, if your Honours think fit to make any arrangement by adding that part of Nottingham to Strabane township."

The addition was made by order of the court, in accordance with the prayer of the petition, and from that time the territory of the township remained practically unchanged.

At the October term of court in 1831 a petition was presented to the court of Washington County asking that the township be divided. Viewers were appointed, and returns made, and at the May term of court in 1831 the petition for division of the township was granted, and order issued erecting North and South Strabane as separate townships.

Following is a list of justices of the peace elected in South Strabane township from 18401 to the present time:

Dickerson Roberts, April 14, 1840. Isaac Vance, April 10, 1860.
Robert Colmery, April 14, 1840. D. L. Reynolds, April 17, 1866.
James Linn, April 13, 1841. D. L. Reynolds, April 10, 1871.
John Nesbitt, April 15, 1845. John Zediker, April 19, 1872.
Jonathan Martin, April 17, 1846. John Zediker, Feb. 7, 1874.
John Nesbitt, April 9, 1850. D. L. Reynolds, Feb. 7, 1874.
John Farley, April 17, 1851. J. B. McBride, Jan. 28, 1874.
Ebenezer McBirney, April 11. 1854. R. D. Henry, March 16, 1876.
Jonathan Martin, April 10, 1855. Charles Schmidt, March 21, 1877.
John Zediker, April 10, 1855. Samuel Garber, April 2, 1881.
Workman Hughes, April 10, 1860. 

[1The justices who held jurisdiction in the territory of this township prior to 1840 are named in the list of justices given in the history of North Strabane.]

Settlements.—Richard Yeates, a Virginian, received Virginia certificates for large tracts of land in what are now South Strabane and Franklin townships. An entry in the first survey book of Yohogania Count of the year 1782 is as follows:

"In consequence of Three Certificates dated at Cox's Fort the 21st day of Feb'y, 1780, and Part of one other dated 9th day of Feb'y, 1780, granted by the Commissioners for Actual Settlements appointed to adjust Claim to unpatented lands in the Counties of Youghiogenia, Monongahela, & Ohio. Richard Yeates, assignee of William Riely, is entitled to Nine Hundred and two acres of land lying in Youghegonia County aforesaid, sd. land lying on the Eastern branches of the Middle Fork of Shurters Creek. . . . In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 26 th Day of Feb'y, 1780.

"Thomas Bond, D.S.Y.C.
"W. Crawford, S.Y.C."

This land was adjoining lands of Capt. James Buchanan and Hercules Roney, both of whom received tracts of lands as assignees of Richard Yeates for one hundred and sixty-one acres of land. The entry in the survey book mentioned above, concerning the land of Capt. James Buchanan, is here given, and that of Hercules Roney is similar:

"In consequence of a certificate dated at Cox's Fort, Feb. 9, 1780, Granted by the Coms. appointed to adjust claims to unpatented Lands in the counties of Yohogania, Monongalia, and Ohio. Capt. James Buchanan, assignee of Richard Yates, is Intitled to one hundred and sixty-one acres of land on the waters of the middle fork of Shurtees Creek.

"Signed Feby 26, 1780.
Thomas Bond, D.S.Y.C.
"Ex'd., W. Crawford, S.Y.C."

Richard Yeates was a zealous Virginia partisan. He resided for a time on what is now known as the Gabby farm in Franklin township. On this farm was built the jail of Augusta County, Va. It is supposed he removed to the lands in South Strabane. He commenced the sale of his land in this county in 1783, and continued until 1788, when they were all disposed of.

Before the fall of 1787, Richard Yeates had removed from the county and the State, and nothing has been ascertained of his subsequent life.

Henry Taylor came to this section of the country from Cecil County, Md., about the year 1770, and settled on land he afterwards purchased. The first purchase of which there is any record is of one hundred and fifty acres on the Middle Fork of Chartiers Creek, "Bounded on the northeast by Robert Howelton's land, and on the path leading from Catfish Camp to Pittsburgh including his improvement." This deed or patent is signed by John Penn, Feb. 1, 1771. Taylor afterwards purchased other tracts, amounting in the aggregate to about seventeen hundred acres, all in what is now South Strabane. He married Jane White, and settled on the portion of land which afterward became the farm of John Smith, and now owned by George Davis. On this he built a cabin which was occupied by him for several years. His sons were Matthew, Henry, John, Joseph, and George; the daughters were Jane, Eliza, and Mary.

Matthew Taylor, the oldest son, was born on the farm, married Nancy Hutchinson, and settled on a part of the tract. He died June 19, 1852. They had ten children, eight of whom are living. Thomas resides in West Finley. George lives in Buffalo township; Matthew on two hundred acres, a part of the old homestead. William lives in Washington. His son, J. Frank Taylor, is a member of the bar in Washington County. Henry, the second son of Henry, married Nelly Dagg; settled on a portion of the farm; later sold, and removed to Wheeling, where he died. The property is now owned by George Munce.

John, the third son, settled on a part of the estate now owned by William Berry. He married Mary Good, and after the sale removed to Tuscarawas County, Ohio. Joseph married, first, Ann Stewart, and, second, Mrs. White, a widow, and lived and died in the township. George W., the youngest son, settled on a portion of the farm, where he resided until his family had arrived at maturity and became scattered. He sold and removed to Pittsburgh, and later to Wheeling.

Of the daughters, Jane became the wife of Richard Dagg. They settled on the portion of the farm now owned by Joseph Miller. John W. Seaman, the present prothonotary of Washington County, is a grandson. Eliza married Dr. Layton. They removed to Waynesburg, Greene Co., and died there. Mary married Thomas Patton, who was a hatter. They settled in Washington, Pa., for several years, and emigrated to Ohio.

Henry Taylor was appointed a major of militia and a justice of the peace of Yohogania County; and upon the erection of Washington County, in 1781, was elected a justice of the peace, October 15th, and appointed by the Supreme Executive Council a justice of the peace and of the Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, and later made the presiding justice, a position he held until the office was abolished in 1791, and the Hon. Alexander Addison, a judge learned in the law, succeeded him. He died Oct. 8, 1801, sixty-three years of age.

William Huston was the first white man who settled in the immediate vicinity of where the borough of Washington now stands. In 1774, Michael Cresap stopped at the house of William Huston at Catfish Camp, when on his way from Wheeling to Redstone. Huston's land was taken up on a Virginia certificate, and was surveyed to him as "Huston's Pleasure." On this farm he lived until the latter part of 1802. His will was made December 7th of that year. He had three sons, James, Dixson, and Hamilton, and four daughters, Ann, Jane, Peggy, and Polly. The farm was divided before the death of their father, Hamilton receiving a deed for two hundred and thirty acres. Ann married John Bollen, who was a shoemaker, and settled in Washington, Pa., opposite Joseph Huston's (who was a cousin of William) tavern on Main Street. Here they lived until 1811, when they moved to Amwell township. Mrs. Jane B. Prall, of Washington, is their daughter. Hamilton settled on the home farm. He had a son William, and Mrs. Samuel McFarland is a daughter. Jane Huston, daughter of William, married John Smith. Peggy married John Paxton, and Polly married Archibald Kerr. The old homestead and spring is now owned by Mrs. Henry Swartz, and part of the farm is now owned by Mrs. Nicholas Wade and others. The Wade extension is on part of the farm, and Wade Avenue passes through it.

Josiah and Hugh Scott, brothers and sons of Abram Scott, came to this county about 1771 from Peach Bottom, near where the Susquehanna River passes from Pennsylvania into Maryland. Hugh Scott settled in what is now Nottingham township, and Josiah on a piece of land in what is now South Strabane. He was born in 1735, and about 1760, married Violet Foster. The warrant for his land was not taken out until Sept. 21, 1784, and was surveyed on the 10th of September the next year. It was named "Oakham," and contained two hundred and ninety-nine acres, adjoining lands of Dorsey Pentecost, Samuel Workman, and Matthew Steen. On this farm he lived till 1819, when he and his son John and his wife and several others died of cholera. His children were Sarah, Alexander, Abraham, Mary, Betsey, James, Jane, Josiah, Hugh, Robert, Samuel, and John. Alexander married Rachel, the daughter of John McDowell, and settled on the old McDowell farm in North Strabane township. A sketch of him and his family will be found in the history of that township in connection with the McDowells. Abraham married Rebecca, also a daughter of John McDowell. He became a Presbyterian clergyman, and was connected with Jefferson College. A sketch of this family will also be found in the history of the McDowell family. Mary, a daughter of Josiah, became the wife of William Cotton, and Betsey the wife of Robert Stephenson. John married Isabella, a daughter of Isaac Vance; they settled on the homestead, and both died in 1819.

Isaac Vance was a son of John Vance, of Somerset township, who died in 1796. Isaac was born Feb. 11, 1754, and came to this county with his father. On the 18th of November, 1803, he married Mary, daughter of Henry Cotton. He purchased two hundred and fifty acres of land in Strabane township of Hugh Cotton, his brother-in-law, April 23, 1810, on which he settled and raised a large family. His wife died Nov. 9, 1830, and he survived her until Nov. 5, 1837, when he too died at the age of eighty-three years, leaving fourteen children, John, Agnes, Henry, Hugh, Isabella, Samuel, Mary, Hannah, Martha, Isaac, Rachel, Joseph, Margaret, and Lydia. John and Henry Vance settled on Pigeon Creek, on land their father had located there, and where their descendants now reside. Mrs. John D. Scott is a daughter of Henry. Isabella Vance married John Scott, a son of Josiah Scott; they settled on the Scott farm, and both died of cholera in 1819. Martha married David Riddle, and settled on Pigeon Creek, where their son now lives. Isaac settled in Allegheny County, and died in February, 1873. His son John owns the property. Mary married Samuel Davis, and settled on Pigeon Creek.

Samuel, a son of Isaac, settled on the homestead in Strabane township, where he died. Of his children, John remained on the homestead, where he now lives; William settled on the Scott farm, and died there; Isaac located in Carlisle, where he now resides; Joseph became a Presbyterian minister and located at Carlisle, where he now resides, but on account of ill health returned to the homestead and died when still a young man.

Thomas Dill emigrated to this county from Ireland and purchased land in Strabane township, a part of which he afterwards sold to Henry Wilson, who married his daughter Jane. Matthew Dill, a son, married a daughter of Alexander Cunningham, of Washington, Pa., with whom he engaged in the mercantile business in that place.

Henry Wilson, a native of Ireland, came to this country about 1800, and married Jane, a daughter of Thomas Dill, and purchased a portion of his farm, on which their son, Matthew Dill Wilson, now resides. Jane, a daughter of Henry and Jane Wilson, married Lewis Guttery, and now lives at Moundsville, W. Va. Samuel J. Wilson, also a son of Henry Wilson, graduated at Washington College, became a Presbyterian minister, and for several years was located at Pittsburgh. He is now president of the Allegheny Theological Seminary at Allegheny City. Elizabeth, a daughter of Henry Wilson, became the wife of John Paxton, of Canonsburg. This son, the Rev. John Paxton, was for several years pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and now pastor of the Forty-second Street Church in New York City. Thomas B. Wilson, also a son of Henry, was a Presbyterian minister, and located in Xenia, Ohio, where he died, leaving a widow and two sons, both of whom are Presbyterian ministers, one located near Pittsburgh, the other near Downingtown, Pa.

On the 8th of April, 1786, Nicholas Little received a warrant for a tract of land in Strabane township, which was surveyed to him on the 10th of September, 1786. It contained three hundred and ninety acres, and was named "Littleton." Nicholas and his brother Moses, who were natives of Ireland, emigrated to this country and came to this county about 1781. The descendants of Nicholas are now living in Cecil township. Moses Little settled on land adjoining John and William Colmery, and now in possession of D.L. Reynolds. His children were David, John, Margaret, Nancy, Moses. David settled on the home farm, lived a bachelor, and died there. John learned the trade of a printer, and lived and died in Pittsburgh. Margaret became the wife of Zachariah Reynolds, and resided about two miles east in the township; their descendants are living on the farm. Nancy married _______ McMurtry, and settled in Pittsburgh. Moses married Nancy, daughter of Joseph Harris, of Amwell township. They settled on an adjoining farm, where he lived and died. They had six children, --Emeline is unmarried; Margaret became the wife of Samuel Melvin, of Waynesburg, Greene Co.; John H., adjoining the home farm; Leroy W. became an attorney-at-law, resided in Washington, Pa., and died in 1872; Dr. J.H. Little resides in Washington, and Moses owns the home farm, but resides in Washington, Pa.

Robert Doak came from Harrisburg before 1780 and settled on land which was surveyed June 2, 1785, containing four hundred acres, named "Doak's Plain." Patent for it was obtained Sept. 17, 1790. He died in 1803, and left two sons, Robert and William, and one daughter, Jean, who was the widow of John Boggs, and at this time the wife of James Neal. The heirs sold to Robert Henry one hundred and thirty-five acres, March 28, 1803, and the same date two hundred to William Doak, and to John McMillen seventy acres; later, and in 1805, Robert Doak sold other land to John McMillen and Robert Hazlett. William Doak lived on his farm till his death in 1857, aged ninety-four years. He came to this section of country with his father, and settled on the farm where he and his father lived and died. He used to relate that they were driven from the place several times by the Indians, and once remained away two years.

James Wilson purchased of Richard Yeates two hundred acres of land, Oct. 28, 1783, where he resided in his latter days. It descended to his son Hugh, who was long a resident of Washington, Pa., and retired to this farm near the borough of Washington, where his son, Hugh W. Wilson, was born. The latter married Frances M., daughter of Thomas Barlow, in 1817, and settled on the farm his grandfather had purchased. They had two sons,-- Edward P. is now of Cincinnati, James W. resides on the home farm. Clara became the wife of A. Todd Baird, and resides in the borough of Washington.

After the death of his wife he married Sarah, the granddaughter of Col. Presley Neville, by whom he had one son, Neville, now living in Cincinnati.

Robert Henry took up a tract of land on a Virginia certificate received in February, 1780. It was surveyed as "Redstone," containing three hundred and thirty-three acres. On the 21st of November, 1793, he purchased one hundred and eighty-nine acres of Craig Ritchie, and on the 3d of May, 1799, he purchased one hundred and seventy-nine acres of Thomas Kerr (who inherited the tract of three hundred and thirteen acres called "Witches' Haunt" of his father), and on the 28th of March, 1803, he purchased one hundred and thirty-five acres of the heirs of Robert Doak. These four purchases made an area of eight hundred and thirty-six acres. He married Ann, a daughter of Nicholas Little, and had two sons, Nicholas and Joseph, and two daughters, Isabella and Peggy. Joseph married a daughter of David Zediker, and emigrated to Richland County, Ohio. Nicholas married Margaret, a daughter of John Zediker; they settled on the Henry homestead, where he lived and died April 24, 1838, leaving four sons, Robert, John, Lewis, and Joseph, and one daughter, Mary. Robert remained on the homestead, where he still lives. John located on the William Gibson tract. Lewis was in the United States army, and was wounded at the battle of the Wilderness, and died a few days after, May 24, 1864. Joseph died when about twenty-one years of age. Mary, the daughter of Nicholas and sister of Robert and John, married Nathaniel White, and settled near Hickory, in Mount Pleasant township. Isabella , a daughter of Nicholas Henry, Sr., married Lewis Zediker, and settled in Beaver County. Peggy, the youngest daughter, married Benjamin Gray, and emigrated to Ohio.

Thomas Woodward settled in the county about 1785, and took out a warrant for land April 27, 1786. It was surveyed on the 22d of May following, and named "Indian Camp," containing four hundred and five acres. A part of the tract afterwards came into the possession of Col. James Dunlap, who laid out a town upon it called Williamsburg, and opened a tavern, then having for its sign "Mount Vernon." After 1818 this passed to Jonathan Martin, and was called Martinsburg, and still later to George Pancoke, and the place is now known as Martinsburg and "Pancoke."

The name of Lodowyck Smith does not appear on the survey books, but he was located in this township, on land adjoining Alexander Kerr, in March, 1786. In 1796 he opened a tavern on the farm, which was kept by him till his death in 1817. His will bears date in 1816, by which he left his wife the mansion house and one hundred acres during her life, and to his children each a portion of the tract. He had seven daughters and two sons,--Catharine, Margaret, John, Susannah, Christina, Julia, Mary, Elizabeth, and Lewis.

Catherine married David Zediker; they came into possession of ninety acres, which was sold, and is now owned by B.B. Zediker, and removed to Ohio. Margaret married John Zediker, and settled on the Zediker farm, a portion of which was given to them by her father. John also lived on a portion of the farm. Susanna married Dickinson Roberts; they resided on part of the farm. He was sheriff of Washington County in 1817. Their children were Elizabeth, who married Thomas Fergus, and settled in South Strabane. Mary married Lewis Valentine. Leonard settled on the Little farm, and Lewis in Waynesburg. Christina Smith married Samuel Munce; they settled on the homestead and had two children, of whom one married Adam Beck, whose heirs now own the property. Julia Smith married William Helms, and settled at Amity, in Amwell township. Mary Smith married James Guttery, and settled on part of the Smith farm, now owned by their son George. Elizabeth Smith married Jacob Koontz, a son of Michael Koontz, of Washington; the portion of the farm they owned is now owned by Robert Zediker. Lewis Smith, a son of Lodowyck, settled on the portion left him and died there, leaving it to his son Lewis. It is now owned by the heirs of John Zediker, Jr.

John and David Zediker were Germans, who came to this township, where they both married daughters of Lodowyck Smith. John married Margaret, and David married Catharine. The latter received of her father forty-five acres of land, and Margaret ninety acres. David and Margaret soon after sold their land and removed to near Richland (now Mansfield), Ohio, where he took up a large tract of land, and raised four sons, each of whom he gave eighty acres.

John Zediker, his brother, purchased lands of Thomas Kerr, adjoining, and lived there many years, raised a large family of children, and finally went West, leaving his family here. Of these Lewis married Margaret, the daughter of Nicholas Henry, and lived on the Zediker homestead, where he died, leaving five sons and five daughters. His son John lives in the east portion of the township, and is a justice of the peace. Robert lives on the Jacob Koontz property. Nicholas lives in Martinsburg, and B.B.Zediker on the homestead, and also owns the portion left to David Zediker. John, a brother of Lewis, and son of John Zediker, lived on the portion of land his father bought of Thomas Kerr, and his heirs are still in possession.

William Smith, a native of Ireland, came to this county and settled for a time on Mingo Creek, and July 25, 1807, purchased one hundred and nine acres of land of Nicholas Vaneman, where he settled and died. His children were Ann, Sarah, Margaret, Maria, James, and William. Ann married Joseph Caldwell, of Hickory, where he was a merchant. Later he moved to Butler County, Pa. Sarah married Robert Hanna, and moved to Ohio. Margaret remained single, and died in the township. James settled near Washington, Pa., but died soon after settlement. William married Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew Vaneman, and settled first in Somerset township, where he remained eight years. He then bought the mill property in South Strabane township, which he still owns. He owns property adjoining in Somerset and South Strabane townships. He now lives near the line and in Somerset township, and his son Wylie in the old Andrew Vaneman homestead in this township.

Hugh, Samuel, and James Workman came to this country about 1781 and settled near Washington, Pa. They were all engaged at different times in the expeditions against the Indians. Hugh and Samuel were tanners. Hugh took up his residence in the borough of Washington, where he followed his occupation. Samuel took out a warrant for a tract of land dated Sept. 2, 1785, and which was surveyed May 13th the next year. It was called "Paphos," and contained three hundred and fifty-eight acres. He opened a tavern in 1796, and kept it till 1812. The load owned by James Workman is now owned by Huston Paull, and that owned by Samuel is now owned by Mrs. Templeton. James Workman also purchased of Henry Wood, July 22, 1796, eighteen acres (a part of the John McClure tract), and on the 20th of January, 1801, he purchased land of William Huston, a part of the tract called "Huston's Pleasure."

A Methodist Church or class was organized in this township about 1840. Their meetings were first held in the school-house. About five years later they erected a neat frame church, in which services were held until about 1867, when it was thought best to change the location, and a frame building was erected on the north side of the National road, about six and a half miles east of Washington borough, outside of this township. The chapel, at first known as Providence Chapel, upon its removal to its present location became known as Davidson's Chapel, and is at present under the pastoral care of the Rev. R.S. Wolf. Upon the site of the Providence Chapel now stands the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, under the care of the Rev. W. F. Hamilton.

Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church.—This church was organized July 2, 1872. Its edifice is in South Strabane, five miles east of Washington. For the first few years of its existence it was supplied with preaching successively by Rev. W. Ewing and Rev. George Fraser, D.D. Since April, 1875, its pulpit has been filled by Rev. W. F. Hamilton. Its ruling elders have been Isaac Dager, William Pees, and Robert Munnell, ordained July 2, 1872, and John B. Herron and John Herron, ordained Feb. 11, 1877. The last named is now acting. Isaac Dager died Dec. 4, 1876. The others have removed out of the bounds. At its organization twenty-eight members were enrolled; its present membership is forty-four. One of the active instruments in the establishment of this church was the venerable Mrs. Jane Dill Wilson, who died June 20, 1877, at an advanced age. She was the mother of Rev. Thomas Wilson, deceased, and Rev. S. J. Wilson, D.D., L.L.D., professor in Western Theological Seminary. Among her grandchildren are Rev. Maurice B. Wilson, Emsworth, Pa., and Rev. Calvin D. Wilson and Rev. John R. Paxton, D.D., both of Washington, D.C. She was a person of remarkable force of character and most devoted piety.

Schools were taught in the township in the early days by subscription, in the same manner as in other townships. At the time of the passage of the school law in 1834 there were living in the township 245 persons liable to school tax. The amount raised for school purposes in 1835 was $201.88. Unlike some of the other townships in the county, this township accepted the provisions of the law, and raised in 1836 $401, and received from the State $66.39. In 1837 the whole amount received was $404.47. The township was divided into seven districts, which remained as they were laid out until about 1875, when another district was made. In 1863 there were 237 pupils; in 1873, 221; and in 1880 the number was increased to 333. In 1863 the receipts for school purposes were $1035.20; expenditures, $993; in 1873, receipts, $1995.18; expenditures, $1723.92; in 1880, receipts, $4419.49; expenditures, $4120.97.


Prehistoric relics have been found in various places in South Strabane township. A cut is here given of a pipe made doubtless by a people whose occupancy preceded that of the Indians whom the first white settlers found here. It was found near the United Presbyterian Church in this township by Joseph Brundige in the year 1840.

Enterprise Coal-Works.—On the 1st of April, 1873, operations were commenced for sinking a shaft seven by eleven feet in size, for the purpose of mining coal. After reaching a depth of one hundred and fifty feet they struck the Pittsburgh vein, which at that place was four feet in thickness. The land was owned by James Walter and Julius LeMoyne, and the sinking of the shaft and mining was under the management of the former. In December of that year mining commenced; from ten to twenty-five men were employed, and entries were opened from both the east and west sides. After the several changes, the original proprietors retiring, the property came into possession of V. Harding, who now owns it. There is one main entry running northerly, and nine cross entries, five on the west side and four on the east, extending as follows: West side, No. 1, 1400 feet; No. 2, 1400 feet; No. 3, 700 feet; No. 4, 500 feet; No. 5, 250 feet. About 800 feet from the main entry is an air-shaft, six by six feet. East side: No. 1, 125 feet; No. 2, 750 feet; No. 3, 150 feet; No. 4, 175 feet. The entries on the east side and Nos. 3, 4, and 5 on the west side are not worked at present. About 12, 000 tons were mined in 1881. A branch road runs from the works to connect with the Pittsburgh Southern Railroad.




Samuel Vance

Samuel Vance was born in Somerset township, Washington County, Pa., March 13, 1791. His father, Isaac Vance, was of Scotch-Irish parentage, and a native of the valley of Virginia. His mother, Mary Cotton, of Puritan ancestry, was born in Bedford County, Pa. Both families came to this country about the year 1780.

The life of Samuel was the uneventful one of a well-to-do Washington County farmer. He was a man of noble impulses, strict integrity, and high character. His reading and thinking made him one of the earliest and most pronounced temperance men, and an anti-slavery man when that movement was first begun. He was twice married, his wives being cousins, Martha and Mary Fife, of Allegheny County, Pa. He had eight children, four of whom survive him. In 1834 he was chosen a ruling elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Washington, in which relation he continued until the time of his death, Feb. 28, 1874. His good judgment, practical common sense and unflinching honesty were often called into requisition in public local trusts and interests.


Huston Paul

William Paul, a native of Pennsylvania, and Hannah Slack, a native of New Jersey, were married in the beginning of the present century, and settled in Amwell township, Washington Co., Pa. They had twelve children, all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood and married. Huston Paul was their third child, and was born Nov. 10, 1805. He enjoyed but meagre advantages of study in childhood, it being necessary for him very early in life to devote his time to manual labor. He was married Oct. 4, 1827, to Nancy, youngest daughter of Martin and Catherine Heckathorn, of Greene Co., Pa. For five years after his marriage he was engaged in milling. He then purchased the farm where he now resides. His life has been one of temperance, industry, and prudent economy. Although he has almost reached the age of fourscore years, he is still active, the result, no doubt, of his even-tempered, abstemious life. He has four children,--Hannah married John C. Hastings, a hardware merchant of Washington, Pa., where they reside. They have two children,--William, married to Sadie Ashbrook, and Annie G. Catharine is unmarried, and resides with her father. William married Martha Vance. He is a farmer, and resides in Franklin township, Washington Co. They have seven children,--Philo V., Samuel H., Cary B., Isaac E., Mary R., Nancy, and Martha.

Nancy is unmarried, and resides with her father.


William Davis

William Davis was born in West Bethlehem township, Washington Co., Pa., Oct. 6, 1810, and is the son of Joshua and Mary Davis. His father was born in Pennsylvania, and his mother was a native of Ireland. William was the oldest of their children, and he and Mrs. Lucinda Smith, of Pittsburgh, are the only ones now living. Mr. Davis in his childhood attended the so-called subscription schools of the neighborhood in which his father resided. He engaged in farm labor early in life, and continued to work for different farmers, carefully husbanding his earnings, until 1847, when he purchased and moved to the farm where he now resides, and since that time he has devoted himself to agriculture and the growing of Saxony wool, in both of which he has been eminently successful. He was married Jan. 28, 1836, to Juliet Palmer, who died Oct. 11, 1841. They had three children. George married Elizabeth Martin, and is engaged in merchandising in Washington, Pa. John K. married Margaret Smith, and is a farmer in Somerset township. Mary Elizabeth died in infancy. Aug. 15, 1844, Mr. Davis married Phebe E. Moore, who died July 8, 1852. His present wife's maiden name was Mary Kerr. They have one son, William H., who is a farmer and resides with his parents. Mr. Davis has held a number of important township offices, and was for nine years a member of the Poor Board of the county. He discharged the duties of these positions in a manner creditable to himself and his constituency. He is also a director of the First National Bank of Washington, Pa., which position he has held for a number of years. He has long been a member of the Presbyterian Church, and for a number of years has held the office of elder in that organization.

He is pleasant and unobtrusive in manner, of a kind and benevolent spirit, greatly attached to his home, and is much respected by his neighbors. His success in life is due to his integrity, his industry, his devotion, and his unselfishness.


George M. Ramsey, M.D.

Of the early history of Dr. George M. Ramsey's family little is known. His great-grandfather came to this county at the age of twelve years. His grandfather, William Ramsey, was born in Bucks Co., Pa., in the year 1755. At the age of sixteen he took the colonial oath of allegiance, and enlisted early in the war of independence as captain. When reconnoitring one day he unexpectedly met two mounted British officers, one of whom he captured, notwithstanding he was himself on foot. The government presented him with the sword of the officer he captured in recognition of his bravery and agility. After the surrender of Yorktown he started on foot for home, and becoming weary on the way he hung his cumbrous sabre on the limb of a tree and left his trophy there, which in after-years, he greatly regretted. In 1780 he married Martha Allan, of Chester County, Pa. In 1800 he moved to Washington County, and purchased the tract of land now comprising the farms of John S. Barr and S. B. Wier, in Somerset township. He built a mill and pottery near where the United Presbyterian Church now stands. William Ramsey with his family were attendants and communicants of Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church. In 1815 he moved to Ohio, where he died at the age of eighty-six years. His remains were buried at Morristown, Ohio.

Josiah Ramsey, the doctor's father, was born Dec. 4, 1783, near Chambersburg, Pa.; was seventeen years old when he came to Washington County. In 1804 he married Catharine McIlvaine, and had born unto him twelve children, nine daughters and three sons, William, George M., and Josiah Allan. A few years after his marriage he bought the farm in South Strabane where all of his children except three were born. He was a man of exemplary life, a Presbyterian of the Calvanistic type, industrious, and dextrous with the use of tools, but remained a farmer. He died at the age of fifty-three years, and his remains were buried at Pigeon Creek Cemetery.

His oldest son, William Ramsey, was born Jan. 16, 1812. He remained at home, was a steady-going farmer, and never married. He was an ardent Republican, a consistent member of the Presbyterian Church for about forty years, a ruling elder in the same for about twenty-five years. He died June 30, 1880, and a handsome monument marks the place of his burial in Pigeon Creek Cemetery.

Josiah Allan, the youngest son and the youngest of the family, was born March 31, 1828. He received a liberal education, graduating from Washington College in the class of 1850. He read medicine at McKeesport, Allegheny Co., Pa., and began practicing at Braddock Fields, the same county, where he married Mary West, daughter of Rev. Nathaniel West, D.D.

After a few years he moved to Philadelphia, where he practiced until the beginning of the Rebellion, and being surgeon of a volunteer regiment of Philadelphia, he entered the service with his regiment under the call for seventy-five thousand men to serve for three months. At the expiration of his three months' service he was appointed and commissioned surgeon of the One Hundred and Twenty-first Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and continued in service in the Army of the Potomac until it disbanded in 1865. He then returned to Philadelphia and resumed the practice of medicine. Jan. 1, 1870, his wife, died, and in September, 1871, he married Emeline E. Ramalee, of Philadelphia, and to them was born one son, Paul Lemoyne Allan Ramsey. Dr. Josiah Allan Ramsey was a man of delicate constitution, of courteous and genial manner. He died Jan. 8, 1873, and his remains were buried in Mount Vernon Cemetery, Philadelphia.

Dr. George M. Ramsey was born April 19, 1820, in South Strabane township, Washington County. When fifteen years of age his father died; he remained at home two years after his death, and then went to the carpenter trade. In the autumn of 1846, his health failing, he was advised by his physician to go South. He first went to Louisiana, where he spent the winter; he then went to St. Louis, Mo., and in the midsummer to Mineral Point, Wis. His health not improving he again went South via New Orleans and Mobile to Selma, Ala. In the autumn of 1848 he taught school in Arkansas for two and a half months, when he was obliged to leave without compensation for his work because of his sympathy for, and supposed aid to, slaves escaping from their masters. He again went to St. Louis, thence to Alabama, where he spent the winter of 1848. In the summer of 1849 he returned to his home in Washington County, and in the autumn of the same year began the study of medicine in Canonsburg, Pa. He graduated at Jefferson Medical College in the class of 1852, and in October of that year began practice in St. Louis, Mo. In June, 1853, he was appointed surgeon on a vessel bound for Australia, and went to New York City to embark, but finding the vessel not seaworthy he refused to accept the position. He remained in New York City until the beginning of the civil war, when he was appointed surgeon of the soldiers' barracks in Pearl Street, and was examining surgeon until October, 1861, when, at his request, he was ordered to report to the Ninety-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers for duty. This regiment was ordered to Washington, and in March, 1862, entered Virginia, and was attached to the Army of the Potomac. Surgeon Ramsey was in all of the battles fought by the Army of the Potomac until February, 1863. At the battle of Gettysburg he had charge of a hospital containing over a thousand wounded Union and several hundred rebel soldiers. He performed all the operations required with a death-rate of only seven per thousand. In February, 1863, he was ordered to report to the Secretary of the Navy for detached service, but remained surgeon of the Ninety-fifth New York Volunteers, and, at his own request, was permitted to return to duty with his old regiment. Immediately upon his return he was ordered to duty as brigade-surgeon at brigade headquarters, and was finally mustered out of service with his regiment, July 18, 1865. He then returned to New York City and resumed the practice of medicine. In April, 1872, he married Anna Martha Gaffney, and in the autumn of 1876 he returned to the old homestead in Washington County, Pa., where he now resides.

Dr. Ramsey is especially fond of scientific studies, and for many years has been engaged upon the difficult problem of accounting for the diurnal motion on earth. While residing in New York he delivered lectures upon the subject before scientific societies, and in 1869 he published a work of two hundred and sixty-four pages, entitled "Cosmology," in which his theories are propounded and discussed. These theories are certainly quite novel, and may not meet with approval, but to preserve them and invite discussion a summary is here made as nearly as possible in his own language:

The velocity and direction in which clouds move (even when affected by the earth's surface), when compared with the velocity and direction of the earth's rotation, "demonstrate that the wind always moves eastward, and in the aggregate has a greater velocity than the earth's surface over which it moves. Air-motion is always eastward, although it may diverge northward or southward, thereby resulting in a compound motion, yet its eastward motion is always the greatest." "Air-pressure upon the earth's surface is more than one ton to each square foot of surface." "Now considering the earth as virtually in a state of equilibrium in space, that gravity is not exerted upon it in a way to impede rotation, that this air-pressure in motion is exerted in the direction of rotation, and that its velocity is greater than the earth's velocity of rotation, it follows," in Dr. Ramsey's opinion, "that the earth's diurnal rotation is produced and perpetuated by atmospheric pressure in motion." "The atmosphere is, in fact, a great elastic belt, enveloping the earth from pole to pole, moving with a velocity greater than that of the earth's surface, and exerting its mighty power to rotate the earth with a leverage of four thousand miles." Hence is to be discovered another law of nature in operation, "whereby at long but undefined periods the earth is virtually capsized, causing geological and glacial periods and changes in the geographical position of the polar centres."

In the diagram to illustrate these views, S represents the sun; B the earth at her vernal equinox; C and D the earth at her solstices. "One law of atmospheric motion is that it always crosses the line of illumination at right angles, as is shown by the arrows. At B it is seen that the earth's line of rotation and air-motion coincide; while at the solstices, C and D, they diverge 45. Now, the atmosphere being the cause of the earth's rotary motion, it is plainly seen," says the doctor, "if the divergence were greater the rotary power would be exerted with greater force upon the earth around her polar diameter, resulting in a change in the direction of rotation so as to coincide with the line of air-motion, and this change in the direction of rotation would produce a deluge that would submerge whole continents."

*Boyd Crumrine, "History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men" (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts & Co., 1882).

Transcribed by June Buller of Chicago, IL in July 1998. Published in July 1998 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at

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Copyright © 1998 Jean Suplick Matuson. All rights reserved.