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

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

William Wirt Whitsett, Son of Ralph Whitsett of Lancaster and Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania

I have copies of two letters written by a grandson of William, H. G. Whitsett of Brevard, North Carolina, dated November 1929. Henry's letters mention daughter, Gertrude Whitsett Kipp, who supported her admittance to the DAR with records proving her great-grandfather's Revolutionary War service. However, a flood in Washington D.C. destroyed many of the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Among those were documents submitted by her. Henry G. 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 more information on his family. Unfortunately, much of his information were repeats of his unproven family legends. 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. I have not found any record supporting the middle name “Wirt, but the Whitsett monument in the Mt. Washington cemeter in Perryopolis gives his middle initial "W".

Henry G. Whitsett in his letters wrote nothing about his grandfather’s ancestors. As with Samuel Whitsitt, one 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 by Craig Sharrow in 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 is unfortunate that we are unable to determine on who made the statement and on what it is based. Mr. Sharrow's family tree is no longer available on line, but I made a copy of relevant portions when it was.

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. 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. Grandson Henry said that William had brothers John and James who “went south” and William never heard from them again. Once again we have the legend of John who went south. We have some evidence of a James Whiteside, but no evidence of a John young enough to be the brother of William. 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. Research by Susie Jones of Fairmont West Virginia found that there was no connection between Hadessa's father John Crawford of Chester County, Pennsylvania and William Crawford of Virginia. Col. William Crawford's family is well documented and does not support the claim he had a brother named John. Susie's research dispels the myth that Hadessa was William Crawford's niece.

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 and there was not much of a battle. 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 looted all of the buildings and 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. An 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. This was the only shot fired by the townsmen. Bones, believed to be the Indian were found later among the ashes of a house. A young girl in the fort was killed when a raider's 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. Craig Sharrow’s notes say that after the destruction of Hanna’s Town, William settled at Stewart's Crossing and married Hadessa Crawford.

Reconstructed Hannastown, State Park, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

HANNA'S TOWN IN 1782, from a contemporary painting by Homer F. Blair made shortly before the Indian attack that destroyed the settlement (I colored the black and white xerox copy of the original)

Hannastown Pennsylvania State Park

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 was 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, undated, but 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. Henry G. Whitsett’s daughter, Gertrude Kipp, joined the D. A. R. Before she could gain membership, she had to document her ancestor's service in the American Revolution and 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 DAR. certification. In his letter, Gertrude’s father Henry mentions a Fayette County history by “Nelson” which contains a sketch of William mentioning his service during the war 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 the original 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. It is unlikely that William was a friend of George Washington.

*PA Archives, Series 5, Vol. IV, Westmoreland County Militia, pp. 460, 760.

In our research of Pennsylvania records available on the Internet, we have found only a few official records related to William W. Whitsett of Fayette County. The first record we have is the “Transcript of Property in Westmoreland [Fayette] 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. The 1783 entry it supports assertions that William and his wife Hadessa were married about 1781 and their oldest daughter was born about 1782-83.

William and Hadessa lived for a while in Connelsville, on the Youghiogheny River. The couple purchased property on the bank of the River opposite Connelsville, in the village of New Haven, Unity Township, Westmoreland County. Today, this location is in Dunbar Township in Fayette County. William bought the property from John Crawford, Hadessa's father, on July 23, 1798. John Crawford's will states this property was to be all of Hadessa's inheritance after his death. John Crawford died shortly after making the will. William later sold several properties with Hadessa co-signing, indicating the land sold was part of her inheritance. The couple moved from Connelsville to nearby Layton, then to Jacks Run, a few miles northwest of Pittsburgh. William had a wagon building business at Wood and Smithton Streets in Jacks Run. William’s only son Ralph was born there in 1801. Sometime in the 1820's William and Hadessa moved back to Layton near Perryopolis. Hedessa died there about 1828 and she is buried in the Redstone Church cemetery near there.

According to an affidavit by his grandson Henry G. Whitsett, dated October 18, 1929, after his wife's death William lived with his Ralph Crawford Whitsett on Rainbow Island. This "island" in the Youghiogheny River that once had a small mill race on its western edge making it an Island. Years later when coal minning became important in the community of Whitsett (named for Ralph) the channel was filled in by the rail road. The large brick house built by Ralph in 1873 has been restored and is located on the bank of the river in Whitsett. The affidavit of Henry Goe Whitsett:

Brevard, N.C.
October 18, 1929
I, Henry Goe Whitsett, youngest child and son of Ralph Crawford and Rachel Estep Whitsett and grandson of William Whitsett of Pennsylvania, make the following statement: Grandfather William Whitsett lived with my father, Ralph Crawford Whitsett (son of William and Hadessah Crawford Whitsett), on Rainbow Island, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, for a number of years before he died. ( I think about ten years.) Father buried him on Rainbow Island in the bank of a Mill Race, about 1840. His grave was marked by plain stone slabs where he rested until the Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Youghiougheny Rail Road was being built. They run the line of the rail road over Grandfather William Whitsett’s grave. My brother, David P., and myself raised Grandfather’s (William Whitsett) body and moved the body about five miles south of Perryopolis, Pa., and placed it in the same grave of one of my sisters, (Drucilla Whitsett Miller.) (In pencil is written: Redstone Christian Church) After Ralph C. Whitsett died, 1892, and Rachel Estep Whitsett (his wife) died, 1891, we buried them in a family lot in Washington cemetery at Perryopolis, Fayette County, Pa., and erected a monument to them, after which the bodies of Grandfather William and my sister, Drucilla Whitsett Miller, were raised and put in Ralph C. Whitsett’s lot in Washington Cemetery where they now rest.
David P. Whitsett who helped me raise and remove William Whitsett’ body has been dead several years.
(Seal) Henry Goe Whitsett
Henry Goe Whitsett personally appeared before me a notary public for the Transylvania county, State of N.C. and
acknowledged the foregoing instrument, this the 19th day of Oct. 1929
(Triplicate) Judson McCary
Notary Public

Susie rightly questions the notion that William's wife Hadessa was the niece of Colonel 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. William Crawford had only one brother named Valentine. The connection of William Crawford with William Wirt Whitsett can be discounted as romantic legend.

The story that William Whitsett was a friend of George Washington is also a myth. about 1770, Washington purchased a large tract of land in what was to become Perryopolis, Fayette County. Washington recorded in his diary October 15, 1770 how Colonel William Crawford helped him in the purchase. 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 war hero Col. William Crawford were 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 (Fayette) County. William Whitsett may have met George Washington during one of Washington's two visits to Connelsville after the war, but there is no evidence to support the family legend that he was a friend.

In April 1792 a William Whiteside, who may have been our William Whitsett, 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. William and his family moved to Pittsburgh about this time and the location of this warrant is about 55 miles north of Pittsburgh. William Whiteside or Whitsett never patented this land. Often these depreciation land warrants were sold for cash and never occupied by the original warrantee.

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 and owned Rainbow Island in the Susquehanna River. 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.

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.

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.

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 apparently was already in Fayette County by the time he patented his land in February, 1785. His wife Hannah must have followed him at a later date. 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 Westland Monthly Meeting. This meeting later became the Redstone 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 Lancaster County.

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

Quaker William Whiteside's survey, Menallen Twp., Fayette Co., Pennsylvania

Ronald N. Wall
Updated: 18 June 2018