William Wirt Whitsett, Son of Ralph Whitsett of Lancaster and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Whiteside and Whitsett Pioneers and The Whitsett Family of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

By Ronald N. Wall in collaboration with William R. Whiteside
Whiteside Family Association
May 2008

Page 5

Pennsylvania Whitsett Family Trees and Summary

William Wirt Whitsett, Son of Ralph

One of the reasons I believe it is important to discuss William Wirt Whitsett is because of the confusion sometimes with William Whiteside, husband of Hannah Miller, who also lived in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Shortly after the American Revolution, this Quaker family came to Menallen Township in Fayette County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. We will talk about him more below. William Wirt Whitsett, when living in Fayette County resided in the northern townships just south of Westmoreland County. The Quaker William Whiteside lived in Menallen Township about the middle of the county.

Once again we have only circumstantial evidence to link William W. Whitsett, Revolutionary War hero, “Indian fighter and friend of George Washington” to Ralph Whitsett. Much of what we know about him comes from two letters written by his grandson, H. G. Whitsett of Brevard, North Carolina, in November 1929. We would know more, probably, if it were not for a flood that destroyed many of the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D. A. R.) in Washington, D.C. Destroyed were documents submitted by Gertrude Whitsett Kipp, the daughter of H. G. Whitsett, which supported her admittance to the society. Her D. A. R. record supports the middle name “Wirt”. In November 1929, H. G. (Henry) Whitsett wrote to James E. Whitsett of Weatherford, Texas after he saw James’ name in a newspaper. James had been the foreman of the jury in a Texas murder trial that was apparently covered by newspapers in North Carolina. Henry inquired about James’ ancestry and gave a very brief description of his. After he received a reply from Texas, Henry wrote a second letter containing much valuable information on his family. The complete text of these two letters can be found above near the beginning of this essay. In one of his letters he mentions that he had written to William Thornton Whitsett but had not met him. Henry was obviously the source for most, if not all of Professor Whitsett’s comments on William Whitsett of Pennsylvania. Professor Whitsett apparently confused William Whitsett who married Elizabeth Dawson, or his son William who married Eleanor Menees with the much younger William Whitsett of Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

Henry G. Whitsett in his letters wrote nothing about his grandfather’s ancestors. If he had, our job here would have been much simpler. As with Samuel Whitsitt, a key piece of evidence is that William named his only son, Ralph. A contributing factor for our conclusion that William was the son of Ralph of Lancaster and Cumberland Counties is that he was in the right place at the right times; however, that can often be misleading. Our assumption is also supported by bits of information from other researchers. Below, we discuss all of the evidence, both primary and anecdotal. One important clue is a statement found on the Craig Sharrow family tree posted on Rootsweb’s World Connect: “William's family ran a flour milling operation in the John Harris's Ferry (Harrisburg) area until they were burned out by Indian raids around 1770.” The specific source of this quote is not given. This must be a reference to Ralph Whitsett’s mill in Lisburn, Allen Township, Cumberland County, located within a few miles of Harris’ Ferry. It certainly is an indicator that William was Ralph’s son. It is unfortunate that we are unable to determine on who made the statement and on what it is based.

Henry stated that his grandfather William Whitsett was born in 1752. Other sources state he died in 1842. Henry was born in 1852, a decade after his grandfather William Whitsett died. Thus, what Henry knew about him must have come from his father, Ralph Crawford Whitsett. Henry said that William was from Virginia and settled in Pennsylvania. As far as we know, William never lived outside the boundaries of today’s Pennsylvania. I am certain the belief that he was from Virginia goes back to the border dispute between Virginia and Pennsylvania. It seems to indicate that William was part of the Virginia faction in Westmoreland County during that dispute. One of the reasons we have not found a warrant and survey for him in Westmoreland County is that he may have obtained any land he owned prior to the American Revolution through the authority of Virginia.

If William was born in 1752, we can surmise that he was born in Lebanon Township, Lancaster County. Henry said that William had brothers John and James who “went south” and William never heard from them again. Again we have the legend of John who went south. We have a little evidence of a James Whiteside, and much less evidence of a John, in western Pennsylvania in the 1780-90’s. According to Henry, William married Hadessa Crawford, the niece of Colonel William Crawford, the Revolutionary War hero and chief justice of the court in Westmoreland County. Crawford family researchers support this and also add that her full name was Esther Hadessa Crawford, and that “Hadessa” is the Jewish version of the name Esther. This does not mean that the Crawford’s were Jewish, only that they were aware of the connection between the two names.  Research by Susie Jones of Fairmont West Virginia found that there was probably no connection between Hadessa's father John Crawford of Chester County, Pennsylvania and William Crawford of Virginia.  Susie dispels the myth that Hadessa was William Crawford's niece.

In our research of Pennsylvania records available on the Internet, we have found only a few official records related to William W. Whitsett. The first record we have is the “Transcript of Property in Westmoreland County.” It shows that in 1783 William Whiteside's owned 100 acres in the county and there were three inhabitants in his household. In September 1783 Fayette County was formed from Westmoreland and this “Transcript of Property” was probably related to that split. If the 1783 entry is indeed William Whitsett, it supports assertions that William and his wife Hadessa were married about 1781 and their oldest daughter was born about 1782-83.

William’s service during the American Revolution is recorded in the Pennsylvania Archives. They list him as William Whitsett, Private in the Westmoreland County Militia, Continental Line. He is listed as being paid as a soldier in the Frontier Rangers, Westmoreland County Militia between 1778 and 1783. An undated entry shows that he also received depreciation pay. It is my guess this was probably about 1783. Depreciation pay was an attempt by Pennsylvania to reimburse its soldiers with “hard” money because of the depreciation of Continental script with which they were originally paid. Records of the Pennsylvania Comptroller General, Department of Public Records has another pay record for William Whitsett, Westmoreland County Militia dated from April 1, 1784 to March 30, 1785. This was after the 1783 Treaty of Paris officially ended the war. Troubles with the Seneca Tribe and other Indians plagued the area for several years after the war; perhaps this pay was for his “Indian Fighter” period. People in that area of Pennsylvania considered these problems a continuation of the war with Britain.

An unidentified family source states that William was one of the defenders of Hanna’s Town on July 13, 1782. The temporary county seat of Westmoreland County, Hanna’s town consisted of about thirty buildings. This would indicate that the total population of the town was probably not much over one hundred people, counting wives and children. One of the best descriptions of that “battle of Hanna’s Town” was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an article by Len Barcousky titled, “Eyewitness 1782; While Fort Pitt is Spared, Hanna’s Town Burns.” Only a few lives were lost on either side during the attack. A party of farm laborers spotted the invaders and warned residents, who took refuge in the small stockade on the edge of town. When the Indian war party arrived, they found the town deserted. After looting all of the buildings they set the village ablaze. Most of the town was within rifle range of the fort, yet the defenders held their fire. This was probably a wise decision. One account says that there were only nine guns among the settlers and the raiding party consisted of hundreds of Seneca warriors and a couple dozen British soldiers. Had the raiders wanted to overrun the fort, they could have easily done so. It was best not to provoke the raiders. The eyewitness to the raid, a white prisoner named Matthews, said that an Indian warrior put on the military coat of one of the residents and paraded around in it, taunting the refugees in the fort. His obnoxious behavior was rewarded with a bullet from one of the defenders. Bones, believed to be his, were found later among the ashes of a house. A young girl in the fort was killed when a bullet struck her in the chest. Another account of the attack states that another young girl was mortally wounded while she was rescuing her small brother. After destroying Hanna’s Town, the raiders turned their attention to Miller’s Station, not far from Hanna’s Town. The residents there had no warning and several lives were lost.


Reconstructed Hannastown, State Park, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
CLICK HERE FOR PICTURE OF HANNA'S TOWN IN 1782

Visit Westmoreland County Historical Society

Sharrow’s notes say that after the destruction of Hanna’s Town, William settled at Stewart's Crossing and married Colonel William Crawford's niece, (Hadessa) Esther Crawford. They lived for a while in Connelsville, Pennsylvania on the Youghiogheny River, located in today’s Fayette County. The couple purchased property on the bank of the Youghiogheny River opposite from Connelsville, in the village of New Haven in Unity Township in Westmoreland County. Today, this location is in Dunbar Township in Fayette County. William bought the property from John Crawford, Esther's father, on July 23, 1798. Crawford considered this property to be all of Esther's inheritance upon his death. Shortly after John Crawford died, William sold several properties with Esther co-signing. William and Esther then moved from Connelsville to nearby Layton, then to Pittsburgh and Jacks Run, a few miles northwest of Pittsburgh. While living near Pittsburgh, William had a wagon building business at Wood and Smithton Streets. William’s only son Ralph was born in Jacks Run in 1801. Hadessa (Esther) died about 1828 in Layton, Pennsylvania and she is buried in a cemetery near there. Apparently, William and Ester returned to Fayette County in the 1820’s. William is buried in the Mt. Washington Cemetery in Perryopolis, Pennsylvania. His marker in the cemetery gives his date of death as 1842.

Note:  Late in May 2008 I received the following message from Susie Jones, a descendant of William Wirt Whitsett.  Susie lives in Fairmont, West Virginia about forty-five minutes from Perryopolis.

"I doubt that the Ralph Whitsett in the Mount Washington Cemetery, is the father of William W. Mount Washington Cemetery was not’t established until about 1900, and I really don’t think that William W. is buried there either. There is a large monument, with engraving on all four sides. One side says father, William W. (1752-1842), then son, Ralph C. (1801-1892), wife Rachel (1808-1891), etc. The side with William and Ralph has a Rev. War marker. I think that’s what caused the confusion about Ralph being in the Rev. War. I’ve written to the gentleman that has placed that info on the web, but he doesn’t want to change it stating that it is that way in the Listing of Veterans buried in the cemetery.

Ralph C. (1801-1892) had a son Ralph that died in 1887."

She also questions the notion that William's wife Hadessa (Ester) was the niece of William Crawford.  It is well documented that Col. Crawford was from Virginia while both of Hadessa's parents were from Chester County, Pennsylvania.  A published genealogy of John Crawford's family makes it seem unlikely the two were related, let alone brothers.  Also, apparently William Crawford had only one brother named Valentine.  Obviously, the connection of William Crawford with William Wirt Whitsett needs to be thoroughly researched or discounted as romantic legend.

Henry G. Whitsett’s daughter, Gertrude Kipp, joined the D. A. R. Before she could gain membership, she had to document William’s service in the American Revolution and also her relationship to him. Unfortunately, the documents she compiled in 1929 for that purpose were later destroyed in a flood in Washington, D.C. The only record that remains is the D. A. R. certification. In his letter, Gertrude’s father Henry mentions a Fayette County history by “Nelson” which contains a sketch of William and labels him as a great Indian fighter and friend of George Washington and Colonel William Crawford. I have not been able to locate a copy of Nelson’s history, but I believe it to be S. B. Nelson's, Biographical Dictionary and Historical Reference Book of Fayette County; published in Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1900.

Until I began this project, I considered the story that William Whitsett was a friend of George Washington to be a myth. Today, I am not so sure. Perhaps as early as 1770, Washington purchased a large tract of land in what was to become Fayette County. Washington recorded in his diary October 15, 1770 how Colonel William Crawford helped him in the purchase. The estate included the future site of Perryopolis. Washington’s agent Gilbert Simpson supervised the construction of a gristmill on the waters of Washington’s Run, which is a short distance south of Perryopolis. Construction was completed in 1776. In 1782 Washington took out a warrant for several hundred additional acres in the area. Simpson ran the gristmill for a few years as George Washington’s agent. According to Washington’s diary, he visited the site at least once.

George Washington and William Crawford had been close friends from the time they were both seventeen years old. Washington taught Crawford the surveyor’s trade and Crawford was responsible for surveying the land that Washington bought in Westmoreland County. William Whitsett probably met George Washington because of his connection to the Crawford family. Whether or not he was actually a friend of Washington’s, or just an acquaintance, might be difficult to document. Only a reference to William Whitsett of Fayette County in one of Washington’s many diaries would prove that their relationship was more than a casual acquaintance.

In April 1792 a William Whiteside was issued a warrant for a survey for land on the Big Beaver Creek. This land was located in the Donations Land, land set aside for sale to raise funds for the depreciation pay of war veterans. Today the land would be located on Mahoning Creek in Mahoning Township of Mercer County. Was this our William Whitsett? We are told that he and his family moved to Pittsburgh about this time and the location of this warrant is about 55 miles north of Pittsburgh. Whether or not this is the case, William Whiteside or Whitsett never patented this land.

Ralph Crawford Whitsett, the only son of William and Hadessa, sold the family farm at Jack’s Run while he was in his early twenties. This may be the time that William and Hadessa returned to Fayette County. From Pittsburgh, Ralph Whitsett took his family to West Newton located on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River in Westmoreland County, a few miles north of the Westmoreland-Fayette County line. A few years later he moved down river to Port Royal, Westmoreland County. In 1845, Ralph founded the town of Whitsett, Pennsylvania in Fayette County. A map of Perry Township in Fayette County shows that Ralph had several pieces of property in the Township by 1872. He was a successful merchant and businessman. He is buried in the Mt. Washington Cemetery along with his father.

George Washington and William Crawford had been close friends from the time they were both seventeen years old. Washington taught Crawford the surveyor’s trade and Crawford was responsible for surveying the land that Washington bought in Westmoreland County. William Whitsett probably met George Washington because of his connection to the Crawford family. Whether or not he was actually a friend of Washington’s, or just an acquaintance, might be difficult to document. Only a reference to William Whitsett of Fayette County in one of Washington’s many diaries would prove that their relationship was more than a casual acquaintance.

In April 1792 a William Whiteside was issued a warrant for a survey for land on the Big Beaver Creek. This land was located in the Donations Land, land set aside for sale to raise funds for the depreciation pay of war veterans. Today the land would be located on Mahoning Creek in Mahoning Township of Mercer County. Was this our William Whitsett? We are told that he and his family moved to Pittsburgh about this time and the location of this warrant is about 55 miles north of Pittsburgh. Whether or not this is the case, William Whiteside or Whitsett never patented this land.

Ralph Crawford Whitsett, the only son of William and Hadessa, sold the family farm at Jack’s Run while he was in his early twenties. This may be the time that William and Hadessa returned to Fayette County. From Pittsburgh, Ralph Whitsett took his family to West Newton located on the west bank of the Youghiogheny River in Westmoreland County, a few miles north of the Westmoreland-Fayette County line. A few years later he moved down river to Port Royal, Westmoreland County. In 1845, Ralph founded the town of Whitsett, Pennsylvania in Fayette County. A map of Perry Township in Fayette County shows that Ralph had several pieces of property in the Township by 1872. He was a successful merchant and businessman. He is buried in the Mt. Washington Cemetery along with his father.

Back to Top

William Whiteside of Menallen Township, Fayette County, Pa.

During my research of William Whitsett of Fayette County, I discovered that some family historians have confused William Whiteside of Menallen Township in Fayette County with William Whitsett of Connelsville and Perryopolis. We can show with a high degree of certainty that they were two separate, probably unrelated individuals. This is a brief account of what we know about the other William Whiteside.

In August 1784 William Whitesides received a warrant for 500 acres of land in Menallen Township, Fayette County. In October of the same year, 294 acres were surveyed for him based on his warrant. He patented the land in February 1785. The survey and patent locate the land at the mouth of Sand Lick Run on Dunlap Creek on the road from Uniontown to Crawford’s Ferry. On today’s maps of Fayette County that is about half a mile south of Fairbank, Pennsylvania. These documents are the first record of William Whiteside in Fayette County.

During the years between April 1784 and March 1785, William Whitsett was serving in the Westmoreland County Militia, eliminating the possibility that he was the William who patented the land in Fayette County. William Whiteside of Menallen Township appears to be the same person as the William Whiteside who appears in the records of Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The first notice we have of him in Chester County is in 1765. He is on the tax list for New Garden Township and his occupation is listed as “chair maker.” On April 23, 1766 William Whiteside and Quaker Hannah Miller of the Friends Kennett meeting were married. Since Quakers forbid the inter-marriage of a Quaker with a non-Quaker, William was also a Quaker, at least at that time. Hannah’s father William Miller of Kennett, Chester County died between August and November 1767. His will was proven on November 14, 1767. In his will he mentions daughter Hannah, wife of William Whiteside. In 1774 the New Garden, Chester County tax list indicated that William Whiteside, chair maker, was an “inmate” – this term was used to identify the taxable person as on active duty with the county militia and exempt from paying the tax that year. From 1781 through 1783 Captain William Whiteside appeared on the muster rolls of the Third Battalion, Chester County Militia commanded by Colonel John Hannum.

William Whiteside had apparently already relocated to Fayette County by the time he patented his land in February 1785. Hannah must have followed him at a later date, perhaps after William built a cabin for them to live in. On December 14, 1786 Hannah Whitesides was received in the Westland Meeting on a certificate from the New Garden Monthly Meeting dated May 4, 1786. This is the last record we have of Hannah. The Westland Meeting covered Quakers living in parts of Fayette and Washington Counties. In 1790 William Whiteside is among the names of Quakers at the Fayette County, Westland Monthly Meeting. This meeting later became the Redstone Monthly Meeting in Union Township of Fayette County. In 1790 he witnessed the marriage of Abel Campbell and Susanna Dixon.

On February 1, 1815 the following notice appeared in the “Genius of Liberty and Fayette Advertiser” newspaper of Uniontown, Pennsylvania: “Died on Friday last, William Whiteside, of Menallen Twp, age about 73 yrs.” William Whiteside is buried in the historic Presbyterian Public Cemetery in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

There are many more records pertaining to William Whiteside of Menallen Township. I have included only those that help to identify him for our purposes here. There is a hint that his sister may have been the wife of the William Allen whose will was witnessed by Ralph Whitsett and Thomas Hammersley in Lebanon Township. More research needs to be done on Captain Whiteside to prove or disprove this and to sort out the make up of his family. There are a lot of missing details in his story and some intriguing coincidences that cry out for an explanation. This research for now must wait for a future paper.

Back to Top


Click on map for a larger image

Southwestern corner of 1791 Pennsylvania showing the approximate location of the various residences of the Whiteside's and Whitsett's, 1774-1800

William Whiteside's survey, Menallen Twp., Fayette Co., Pennsylvania
<<==PREVIOUS
Page 5
NEXT==>>
Ronald N. Wall
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
Updated: 30 May 2011