"Being remembered that I John McDONALD Senr. of Robison [sic] Township Washington County & State of Pennsylvania..."
So begins the will of John McDONALD, one of the early settlers in the northern part of Washington County PA. The rest of it, obviously written or dictated by John himself, reveals a man and wife who prospered during the 35 or 40 years they lived there together. They had ten grown children at the time John made his will - six sons and four daughters.
John McDONALD's will says he left his family with houses, lands, stock, and even slaves. But it seems he also left them with a strong sense of community responsibility. Nine of his ten children became solid, successful citizens like their father, if not all as prosperous, and each in their own way.
There are interesting clues, sometimes contradictory, to the origins of John McDONALD and his wife Martha, but they remain to be followed. Some of them are to be found in sketches of his descendents that appear in the Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County Pennsylvania, published in 1893 (J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago).
A biographical sketch of John N. McDONALD (son of Edward McDONALD) appears on page 124 of this Record and mentions his grandfather John McDONALD (Senr.):
"...Among the energetic early settlers of Washington county the McDonald family, of whom this sketch treats, was very prominently identified. John McDonald (grandfather of John N.) was born in eastern Pennsylvania, where he received his educational training and grew to manhood. He was married to Martha Noble, of the same county, a daughter of the founder of Noblestown, Penn., and the young couple then came to Washington county, locating, in 1775, in Robinson township, on the farm still occupied by their descendants. The children born to them were James, Andrew, William, Alexander, Edward, John, Margaret (Mrs. Glenn), Martha (Mrs. Allison), Elizabeth (Mrs. Mitchell) and Mary (Mrs. William Nesbit). The father of this family passed the latter part of his life in improving the home farm, and he cleared the meadow on which an Indian trading post was erected. He was a Federalist in politics, and in religious connection was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Candor."
Sketches of two other of John McDONALD's grandsons also appear in this Record (p. 972) and refer, as well, to grandfather John McDONALD.
"JOHN JAMES C. and K. NOBLE McDONALD, of Robinson township, are among the largest landholders in the northern part of the county. They are grandsons of John McDonald, who was born in Lishavanich, County Fermanagh, Ireland, April 30, 1730. John McDonald emigrated to this country in 1773, and purchased a tract of land called Mt. Pleasant, on Robinsons's run, now included in Robinson and Mt. Pleasant townships. In 1775 he settled on the Mt. Pleasant property, and afterward bought other lands adjoining Mt. Pleasant, called Blackberry Plain, Gooseberry Thicket, Highlands and Primrose Hill. He also bought large tracts of land in Allegheny and Beaver counties, and in West Virginia. All these lands were well located and are now very valuable. On April 28, 1778, he married Martha T. Noble, daughter of Col Noble, who lived in Allegheny county, near Noblestown. They had six sons - Andrew and William (twins), John, James, Alexander and Edward - and four daughters - Margaret, Martha, Elizabeth and Mary - all now deceased. The eldest son, Andrew, was a graduate of Jefferson College, studied for the ministry, and was pastor of White Oak Flats Presbyterian Church for a number of years. ... John, the third son of John McDonald, was a distinguished member of the Pittsburgh bar, and contributed by his wealth and public spirit to the early improvement of the city of Pittsburgh. ... The remaining sons, William (twin of Andrew), James, Alexander and Edward, gave their attention to farming.
The four daughters, Margaret (wife of Dr. Glenn), Martha (wife of George Allison), Elizabeth (Mrs. John Mitchell) and Mary (wife of Rev. William Nesbit), were more than ordinary women in mental endowment, usefulness and piety. Grandfather John McDonald died, in 1817, on his own farm, "Mt. Pleasant," Washington county, and was buried in Raccoon cemetery. He was a man of wealth as well as moral worth. He gave his aid in first organizing the Raccoon Church at Candor. ..."
I am descended from John and Martha McDONALD, two of my 4g-grandparents, through their son Alexander, whose simpler and less revealing will I also have a copy of. It, however, sheds no light on the history of Washington County PA. Alexander moved away from there sometime after his father's death, and eventually settled with his family in Henry County, Iowa, where he died in 1845.
The Last Will and Testament of John McDONALD (made April 12, 1814, probated March 22, 1815)
The will of John McDONALD appears in Will Book No. 3 (Washington Co. PA), pp. 18-22. I transcribed the text that follows on May 29, 1994 from a photocopy of that entry, which appears to be a typewritten transcription of John McDonald's will, or at least of a registered copy of it. I have retained the pagination of the Will Book and all the unusual spellings. Since these are so frequent, I haven't made any attempt to indicate that they were original mis-spellings and not my typographical errors.
[p. 18] "WILL OF JOHN McDONALD decd.
Be it remembered that I John McDonald Senr. of Robison Township Washington County & State of Pennsylvania being in good helth & sound mind and retaining memory I thank God for his mercys to me and for the better regalation of my wife & children therefore make & ordain this my last Will & Testament in maner & form as followeth and first I will & alow that all my just debts and funeral charges be paid & satisfied out of my personal estate undivided Item I will & leave to my wife Martha the one halfe of our home plantation whereon we live called Mountplesent during her life by way of dowrey or perhaps she might chuse to mary & go to that place where Arthur Darragh no lives & take it in lue of the half of our home plantation calld Mount plesent during her life if she chuses to go to that place where Mr. Darragh lives now my sons James & Edward must fix her a comfortable house to live in or perhaps she may chuse to go & live with one of hir daughters if she chuses to go & live with one of hie daughters my sons James & Edward must pay hir yearly & every year forty dollars during hir life as rent for hir half of the home plantation calld Mountplesent as to the houses thereon my widow Martha may have hir choice either the main body of the house or the two shade rooms she may tak hir choice Item I will & leave unto my sons James & Edward all the plantations adjoyning together whereon I live at present calld Highlands Mountplesent Goosberry thicket Primrose hill & a piece of land I bought from Col. George Stewart & small piece of land I bought from John Stewart during there lives to be equally divided between them according to quantity and quality I alow son James the uper part & son Edward the lower part next to Fredk Johnstons or if they both agreed the may cast
[p. 19] lotts _ if James or Edward dies without hairs begottin lawful marage bed the deceaseds land is to fall to the living brother & his hairs lot still reserving my widows dowrey as before one of the home plantation during hir life my son James may make a will & leave his sons that he thinks most worth & their hairs forever with priviledge that one hair may purchis of another hair if son James makes no will I do hereby will & leave said lands to be eaqualy divided between his sons for the use of them & their hairs forever with priviledge that one hair may purchis of another if no sons to his daughters there hairs & assigns forever but if James should die when his children is small the whole profitts of those lands must go to seport said children untill the yongest comes of age Item son Edward I will & leave him his land on & the same manner & way & under the same incumberance that I have left my son James his land & my son Alexander McDonald I will & leave unto him them lands I own on the north forth of Robison run in Allegheny County Pennsylvania called Nutfield & Smith field in the same maner & way I have left my son James his land & under the same incumberance &c. Item I leave & will to my son John McDonald that brick house he lives in in the same maner and Way that I have left my son James his portion of land I allso will & leave to my son John that plantation that lys on Racoon Creek whereon George Gooshem now lives to him & his hairs & assigns forever Item I will & leave to Andrew McDonald my son three forth part of that tract of land whereon he lives called Cornfield on the Ohio river in the same method & way & under the same incumbrance that I have left my son James his lands &c. Item I will & leave to William McDonald children (Aarian escepted I leave nothing to him) whom is said to be my grand children all that tract of land whereon William McDonald now lives together with twenty acres of land of that tract called Cornfield to be run square of from the river to the hill of an eaqual lenth for there seport untill they come of age only there farther is to have victuls and cloths his life time if he will keep out of jeal and stay at home & help his chieldren to work the farm & at William McDonalds death his son or sons is to have the one half-of the said lands & Williams McDonalds daughters the other half of said lands to them there hairs & assigns forever N. B. these lands is not to be sold during there fathers William McDonalds life & untill his youngest chield be of age that I bought from Willm McDonald that lys upon the hills joining said land & land of David Scotts lands I will & leave to said chieldren & if my executors thinks it it best they may sell said lands lying & being on the hills & buy Stock with the money such as cows horses & sheep &c for the said chieldren or divid the money amonght them when they come of age I wish Revd Andrew McDonald to enter gairdeon for said children if any of my sons dies & leaves widows the are not to gett any part of thos lands I have hereby willed to sons except there widow be forty five years of age and then not more then the eight part of the land or profits of the lands or houses I have made
[p. 20] no provision for my grandaughters my sons may make fortuns for there daughters but as I have hereby givin my sons previledge to make Wills they may leave or give part thereof to there daughters by there will or wills bot to be entealed &c that lands I bought from Timothy Shane and William Blonk I will & allow to hi & remane as wood land for my hairs for fence reals & bolding wood for my hairs bot not to be sold by any of my hairs that may sill there lands on logstown bottom & my eldest daughter now Margrett Glenn I do hereby will & leave unto hir and hir husband Robert Glenn that plantation whereon William Smith now lives joining lands of Henry Noble & John Murdock during both their lives & at their death to my daughters hairs & assigns forever I mean my daughters children as hairs Item I will & leave to my, second daughter now called Martha Allison and my third daughter Elizabeth McDonald that tract of land I own lying & being in mill Creek settlement containing 1011 acre more or less joining lands of Hugh McCreadys Millon Laughlins & the hairs of Joseph McCreadys in the same maner & way I have willed my daughters Margret her portion of land Item I will unto daughter Mary, that tract of land I own on the waters of Harmons run in Brook County, State of Virginia joining the State line & land of Simon Elists widow Bells &c others on and in the same method & way that I have left my daughter Margret her portion of land bot as Elizabeth & Mary is not yett maried if they have or may have husbands the are to have the same chance or priviledge as my daughters Margrets or Marthas husbands of said lands during there lives if any of my daughters dies without hairs begotton in lawfull marage bed there land is to be soold & divided between the hairs of ther sisters & any other lands or lotts of ground I own I allow my Executors to sell and make an eaqual division amonght my other children &c Item my personable estate I do not know - well how to divid it as some of them whom is calld my hairs never wrough for anythings I posess Andrew John & Alexander being constantly at scool there share ought to be small therefore I will & leave to my wife Martha all the hous hold furniture of every kind to divid with hir selfe & our chieldren and to our sons James & Edward I will all my stills & utentials thereunto belonging I will & leave to them likewise I will leave to my sons James & Edward all my farming implyments of every kind I. E plows plow geers chans harrows carts & wagons only Andrew is to gett them cart wheels I bought from Col Noble & likewise all my draft oscon I will & leave to sons James & Edward Itam I will & leave my daughter Margaret Glenn two cows Itam I will & leave all my horses & horned catle & sheep and hogs unto my wife. Martha & my sons James Ales'c & Edward and my daughters Elisabeth & Mary to be eaqually divid amonght them Itam that land I bought from James Wills on the 31st day of March last A. D. 1814. my sons James & Edward may have it at what it cost me which was $494 and if the do not chuse to take said land it is to be soold by my Executors and if my said two sons take it or if it be soold the the
[p.21] money arising therefrom is to be divided amonghts all my lagetees Williams McDonald chieldren making one Legetee If I do not pattan them two tracts of land on logstown bottom called Cornfield & Belivere I do hereby will & desire that my Exectures keeps as much money in their hands or give it to Andrew McDonalds hands as will pattan said two tracts of lands out of the following part of my chattle estate I. E. on the 22nday of March A. D. 1814 as will appeare on my book all cash I had by me all bank stock all stock in the tresarey books of the United States all bonds and nots & there vouchers in my hands & possession amounted to the sum of $15,500. but I sepos thes debts some of them may be disperate besids the above some as some of my chieldren is maried & has gott part to put them in a way of living that I have no obligation for what stands fearly on my notesbooks the are to be charged therewith to William McDonald I will & leave him two hundred Dollars the remainder of of the money as it is collected is to be equally devided as followeth my stock in the Manufacturing bank of Pittsburgh I will leave to my wife Martha twenty shares to William McDonalds chieldrin I will & leave twenty shares to my son Edward I will & leave him twenty shars to daughter Elisabeth I will & leave to hir twenty shars to my daughter Mary I will and laeave hir twenty shares being all the stock I own in said bank Be it remembered that these shars that I have willed to my wife and chielddren & grand chieldren is to be reduced out of there part of my chattle estate so that each legitee may have an equal share to son William I will & leave him only the above mentioned two hundred Dollars as in this will I have ordered all lotts & land that I had not willed to my hairs to be soold by my Executors but as there will be some vakend land lying between son Andrews portion of land and that I have willed to son Williams chieldren that pice of land between said two places I will & leave my son Andrew McDonald the same way I have willed to him his other lands and that pice of land son William bought from McPherson & sold to me I will and leave to son Williams chieldren &c as to my negrows I do not know well how to devide them to my wife Martha I will & leave negrow Monckey & Rachee & to son James I will & leave Ben & Hanna to son Alexander I will & leave Ebe and to my son Edward I will & leave Pomp & Charles & Mariah she is with her mother to Margret Glenn whom is my daughter I will & leave Salley to Martha Allison will & leave Nell & hir chield she may sell them or bind out the chield & take hir home) & to my daughter Elisabeth I will & leave Milley & to my daughter Mary I will & leave to hir Ann as to old James his mistress is to take care of him &c there is to be know law suits between my hairs about any of my estate real or personall under the pennalty of any entering a law sute the for forfitt there share of my estate if any thinks themselfs aggreaved the are to petition the Orphans Court of Washington whom is herby requisted to appoint three or five men to heer and determin the grievence and there Judgement is to be conclusive and final as my son Andrew do not lake
[p.22] to have any negrows I have left his share to Edward therefore my son Edward McDonald is to pay my son Andrew one hundred and fifty dollars in three yearly payments after my death And lastly I hereby nominate and order my three sons I. E. John James & Alexander to be my Executors of this my last Will and Testament hereby revoaking and dissanulling all former and other will or wills Testament or Testaments by me hitherto had or made confirming this and this alone to be my last Will and Testament IN WITNESS of I have hereunto Sett my hand and seal this twelh day of Aprilin the year A. D. one thousand eight hundred and fourteen 1814. _________________ John McDonald Sen ( ) Signed Sealed published & declared before us Wittnesses Alexander Johnston Daniel Kirkpatrick John Stewart __________________ Washington County ss. Be it remembered that on the twentieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifteen before me, Isaac Kerr, Register for the probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration, in and for said County came, Daniel Kirkpatrick, a subscribing Witness to the aforegoing last Will and Testament of John McDonald, late of the County aforesaid, deceased, who, being duly Sworn as the law directs, doth depose and say that he was personally present, and did see Testator therein named, sign this Will, and did hear him publish, pronounce and declare the same to be his last Will and Testament; That at the time of his so doing, he was, to the best of this deponents apprenhension, of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding; and that he and the other subscribing Witnesses signed their names as such to this Will, in the presence, and at the request of the Testator and in the presence of each other. This deponent also says that Alexander Johnston and John Stewart, who are Witnesses to this Will, and whose named are thereto signed, are to the best of his information since dead. and further Saith not. __________________________ Daniel Kirkpatrick And Sworn to and subscribed before me. Isaac Kerr Register. Washington County SS Be it remembered that on the twenty second day of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, before me, Isaac Kerr, Register for probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration, in and for said County, came James Allison, Esquire, who, being duly sworn as the law directs, doth depose and say that he was well acquainted with John McDonald, the Testator in the within will named, for many years before his death, and knew his hand writing well, having seen him often write; and to the best of this deponent's knowledge and belief, as well the body of the within Will, as signature thereto, is the proper hand writing of the said Testator. And further this deponent saith not. _____________________ James Allison And sworn to and subscribed before me. Isaac Kerr Register Registered and Compared with Original, the 22nd day of March, Anno Domini, 1815 Isaac Kerr Register"