Concerning Some of my Forebears
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It is said that William Hunter came into this valley directly from Virginia where he went from Westmoreland County. Why he left Virginia and why he came here is not known. His wife, Rhoda McClelland, came from Hagerstown, Maryland. We do not know how it came about that Rhoda's niece, Martha McClelland, and three nephews, Robert, William and James, came to McConnellsburg. William, James and Martha owned and lived in the Dr. William Trout house now occupied by his daughter, Mary Trout. This house is over one hundred and fifty years old.
Robert McClelland was a great athlete and a noted Indian hunter. Dr. McCook in his book "The Latimers" gives an account of him in the days of the Indians in the vicinity of Pittsburgh and along the Monongahela River.
This Cousin Martha, as we called her, was living after I was born. She was quite an old lady. I must have been a very tiny boy and this seems to be my very first definite recollection. I remember going with my mother to McConnellsburg to see Cousin Martha McClelland and very shortly after that, I recall that Henry Caution, a young colored man, came to Webster Mills bringing the word that Cousin Martha was dead.
This Henry Caution afterwards married Mattie, a servant of my mother's. Mattie was devoted to me. Her hair was always braided into numerous pigtails. She would carry me on her shoulders when she went to the old wood house for an armful of wood and I remember how I clung to those black pigtails. After these wonderful trips top of black Mattie's back, there comes one of those blanks with which the sequences of childish experience are separated.
Sometime after this, I recall coaxing Ma for a quantity of cookies and taking them in my much-cherished wagon to the miller, Mr. Zimmerman, begging him please never to call me "towhead" anymore--and he never did. I was a very blond small boy. "Granny" Sours, my mother's nurse when I was born, told me, "You were born at four o'clock in the mornin' and no bigger than me foot." My sister Henrietta is two and a half years older than I and my brother Webster was four years younger. As children, we slept in a trundle bed--a low bed which pushed under our parents' bed in the daytime.
Our home was at Webster Mills in Ayr Township at a crossroads running north, south and east. The settlement consisted of the flour mill, store, post office, Dr. Cook's office, the blacksmith shop, wagonmaker's shop, the school house and the stone church one mile north. As I remember it, there were five or six families; the David Hunters, the George Hunters, the William M. Pattersons, the Zimmermans, the blacksmith's, the tailor's and Grandfather Hunter's tenant farmer. The woolen mill was one mile south.
My father, William, operated a country store at Webster Mills, Pennsylvania. In the winter evenings, the farmers would come to the store for their mail, etc., and sit around the stove discussing the important questions of the day. These were the neighbors; however, people came from several miles distance to the mill to have their wheat ground and to the store to do their buying. They were regular customers and many of them, both men and women, smoked pipes. Father always had a large box of clay pipes on hand which he gave away. They lighted their pipes with a hot ember snatched from the fireplace or stove. Matches were used sparingly, as one hundred matches in a box cost five cents.
In my grandfather's day, it was customary to keep a barrel of whiskey in the cellar; it only cost twenty-five cents a gallon then and it was good whiskey. My father as a young man was a clerk in a store in Mercersburg where a good-sized drink of whiskey was given to every man who bought a bill of goods.
The store building belonged to Grandfather Hunter. It was on the Homestead property and was about three hundred feet from the big stone house in which he lived. The interior woodwork in this big stone house--mantles, windows, doors and all paneling--is hand-carved and beautiful. The Bivens family lives there now.
Judge James O. Carson of Mercersburg was the proprietor of a general store in which my father was a clerk. At the age of twenty-three he came to Webster Mills in the store of Mr. Pettit. The firm was Duffield and Pettit. Mr. William Duffield was the father of Doctor Samuel Elliott Duffield, later on our physician. Dr. Samuel had a brother who was a professor in Princeton and died only a few years ago. They were a delightful and cultured family. The doctor's daughters were great friends of your mother.
Father took the place of Mr. Pettit in 1839. He boarded in the home of David Hunter as his own family lived some miles north near McConnellsburg. At the end of two years, he married my mother, Elizabeth Hunter, bought out Mr. Duffield and built another storeroom connecting it with the house--a small house at that time to which he later made three additions until it finally became a large rambling "L" shaped house of thirteen rooms. Behind the house stood a blacksmith shop under a large walnut tree. The shop was moved across the creek when the additions to the house were made, but this very old walnut tree is still standing. A beautiful trumpet vine had climbed to the top of this tree when we lived there. The three roads converging at this point made a good location for a store and post office.
The flour mill was only a "stone's throw" away. It was the first mill in this section of the country. It was built about 1800 by my great grandfather, William Hunter. It was a story and a half building and it faced west and the road ran in front of the mill. It was run by a twenty foot overhead water power wheel.
In his will, William Hunter left this mill to his son, David, who rebuilt it, or rather, added one and a half stories to it, greatly increasing its capacity. He faced the mill east and arbitrarily changed the location of the road so that it again ran in front of the mill.
When the post office was first located here, the citizens wished the settlement to be named Hunter's Mills, but my grandfather would not have it so and had it named Webster Mills. He afterwards acquired two more flour mills, one of which he built. It is located one mile south of McConnellsburg. David Hunter was a man of much dignity, business acumen and common sense. He was probably the most notable man of this locality at that time. I quote from a History of Fulton County:
"David Hunter was a picturesque character in Ayr Township during the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century. A useful man in the community, a man of large public spirit and untiring energy. Always engaged in enterprises profitable to himself and affording remunerative employment to mechanics and laboring men. He was a Representative in the Legislature of Pennsylvania in 1836 when this was yet Bedford County."
While David Hunter was in the Legislature, he had a bill passed authorizing the making of a road from Webster Mills across the mountain. He then took the contract and built the road and it is named the Hunter Road.
David Hunter's wife, Henrietta M. Ashman, was a daughter of Colonel George Ashman, born 1740, and Eleanor Cromwell from Ann Arundle County, Maryland. They lived at Three Springs, thirty-five miles north of McConnellsburg. The slave quarters there stood until 1886. Sigel Ashman built a kitchen on the site of the old Homestead. These were the only slave quarters established in Southern Pennsylvania.
Eleanor Cromwell was the daughter of John Cromwell who was a son of Henry. Henry's father was Sir Richard, a brother of Sir Oliver Cromwell. George and Eleanor Ashman had one son and three daughters, John, Henrietta M., Rebecca and Eleanor. Eleanor married James McGirk, Rebecca married William Hammill, Henrietta Maria married David Hunter and John, whose wife's name I do not know, had two sons, Richard and Thomas C. Ashman. Richard married Miss Loraine and their children, several of whom are now living, were Lillian (Mrs. Bernhardt), "Kin", Richard, Sigel, Loraine and George.
When Henrietta married David Hunter, her father, Colonel George Ashman, gave her as part of her dower, two slaves, Toby and Chloe. Their last name, if they had one, is not known, but their children were called Thomas. Their descendants are still in Ayr Township and some have been servants of my mother's family and my family ever since.
David Hunter died in 1853 at the age of seventy-two. He left each of his children a farm. To the eldest child, Uncle George, he willed the farm now owned by Houston Johnson at Webster Mills, also the flour mill. To his daughters, he willed his property in a peculiar way, leaving it to them and their husbands jointly. His will, dated 1850, is long, unusual and interesting. It is on record here in the Courthouse. To Eleanor and her husband, Reverend McNaughton, whose second wife she was, he left the Work farm three quarters of a mile south of McConnellsburg and the flour mill adjoining it. The mill is now owned by Mr. Louis Crouse. Mr. McNaughton's grandson, Finley McNaughton Johnston, now owns this farm.
To his daughter, Henrietta, and her husband, George McCullough, David Hunter willed the farm in Ayr Township now owned by J. Houston Johnston of Pittsburgh, a grandson of Mr. McNaughton. It has always been known as the George McCullough farm. To Elizabeth and her husband, William M. Patterson, he left the Homestead farm upon which is the large gray stone house and the store property. The farm had four hundred and eleven acres of land and also included eighty-seven and a half acres of woodland in Lowries Knob (the same amount being left to Uncle George with his farm). The buildings on this farm were the big stone house and barn, the store, small dwelling and stable, and quite near the big stone house was a small stone house which had been built as directed by David Hunter's father, William, for David's unmarried sister, Rhoda. According to David Hunter's will, my parents paid in cash $1000.00 to each of the other heirs--$5000.00 in all. To Ann Galloway and her husband, John B. Patterson, he willed the farm one mile south of McConnellsburg, then known as the Hoke Farm, which has a fine large stone house. It is still owned and occupied by the children of Uncle John Patterson by his second wife and is known as "Brook Side". To his daughter, Rebecca, he left the woolen mill and farm near it, at that time known as the Hawn property. This was sold shortly thereafter to the grandfather of Dr. John Mosser. The money was put into the hands of Uncle George McCullough and was never fully restored to Rebecca. She died in June 1868.
My Grandfather Hunter's seventh farm was the Ashman farm and mill property at Three Springs. At one time he had loaned them a large sum of money and took a deed to the property. Of course, they never moved from it and in David Hunter's will he left the property to them. (See Mrs. Bernhardt's letter to David H. Patterson.)
My mother, Elizabeth Hunter, was fifteen years old when her mother died. The two older sisters were already married and she had charge of the household until she married in 1841. Her duties were too heavy for so young a girl and her health suffered. At the age of twelve she attended a school in Hagerstown, the girlhood home of her Grandmother Rhoda McClelland Hunter. Her sister, Eleanor, also went to this same school. I have a printed certificate from this school issued to Elizabeth Hunter, March 1830, just one hundred years ago, signed by Professor M. E. Hays. She was a delicate woman and died of tuberculosis at the age of fifty-two. mother was deeply religious but there was no pose about her. She was always cheerful and bright with a keen sense of humor, a patient and devoted mother. Her father-in-law asked her one day how William (my father) was feeling. "Quite well", she said, "but he fully expects to be sick tomorrow."
Father was of a pessimistic disposition, a good business man without much vision, conservative, well-thought of in the community. He was a gentleman of the old school, quite immaculate and always wore a frock coat and the old style collar and stock. Like many of the Pattersons, once prejudiced, he never got over it.
The Pattersons belonged to the old Seceder Presbyterian faith, having become United Presbyterians in 1858 at the union of the Associate and the Associated Reformed Denominations.
Grandfather Thomas Patterson, as I remember, was a bright old man, full of fun. His wife, Elizabeth Burns, ruled him and the family. She was ambitious to have her children marry into families of wealth (two daughters made unhappy marriages) and she was opposed to their marrying outside their own church. They worshipped at what was known as the Seceder Church, a stone church built in 1827 and 1828 one mile north of Webster Mills on a hill on the farm of Mr. William Sloan. The David Hunters belonged to the (then) Independent Presbyterians. He was a large contributor to the building of the "White Church" which stood on the present site of the L. W. Seylar residence in McConnellsburg. Dr. Jewett was the pastor. He was a great fisherman and fond of fast horses. The family rather "handed over" my Uncle George Hunter to him with the idea of making a preacher of him, but Dr. Jewett succeeded only in making an excellent fisherman of Uncle George. Dr. Jewett accepted a call to a Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis later and while there the congregation built a new church. Much to the chagrin of the other denominations, the steeple of this church was the highest in the city. The night before the church was dedicated, someone nailed a paper to the church door and on it was written:
"A very fine church with a very high steeple,
A horse trading preacher and a d---d mean people."
Introduction … by David Hunter Patterson
Chapter 1 … The Valley of the Big Cove
Chapter 2 … The Tall Oaks & Towering Pines of Gallant Little Fulton
Chapter 3 … The Pattersons and the Hunters
Chapter 4 … Concerning Some of my Forbears
Chapter 5 … Childhood Memories
Chapter 6 … Some Church History
Chapter 7 … Boyhood Days
Chapter 8 … I Go Away to School
Chapter 9 … Incidents of the Civil War
Chapter 10 … Springfield - Graduation
Chapter 11 … Your Mother
Chapter 12 … A Quaker Family of Western Pennsylvania
Chapter 13 … From 1870 to 1880
Chapter 14 … Home Again at Webster Mills
Chapter 15 … The Centennial - I Buy a Farm and get into Politics
Chapter 16 … Last Years in the Old Home
Epilogue … by Elizabeth Patterson Neeson
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