THE HAMILTONS OF GINGER HILL. Several families bearing the common name, Hamilton, but not known to be lineally related, have been residents in Washington county since about the time of its organization in 1781. One of the more prominent of these has been grouped in the eastern part of the county at Ginger Hill and thereabouts. The immediate progenitor, in this country, of these families was John Hamilton, who came to America early in the eighteenth century, landing at New Castle, Del., near which he resided at first, but soon removed to York county, Penn., where most of his life was spent. His home during the last years of his life was with his son, John Hamilton, in Washington county. He died August 2, 1798, at the age of eighty-five years. His wife, Florence, died September 28, 1800, aged eighty-three. They were interred in the graveyard of Mingo Presbyterian Church. The names of their children, with dates of birth, are as follows: Jane, born June 8, 1742; James, December 29, 1743; Janet, December 28, 1745; William, March 20, 1751; John, November 25, 1754; Robert. June 27, 1763.
Hon. John Hamilton. Of the children of John Hamilton, Sr., the only one who became a resident of Washington county was John, born 1754, most probably in Adams (then York) county, Penn. He came west in 1783, and the year following purchased of Joseph McCollum a tract of land, "Milford," held by warrant from "Board of Property," and, subsequently, of a Mr. Jacobs, an additional tract adjoining, for which he secured letters patent in 1788 the whole tract lying on south side of Mingo creek, three miles from its mouth. Of these lands he retained possession until his death.
John Hamilton became high sheriff of the county in 1793, being the first chosen under the constitution of 1790. During the time he held this office, the troublous scenes of the insurrection transpired. While sharing in the general sentiment of opposition to the excise laws as unjust and oppressive, he used his influence, personal and official, to prevent this opposition from running into lawlessness and violence. Notwithstanding this, he was regarded with suspicion and subjected to an oppressive prosecution. His excellence of character, and the cruel injustice done him, are fully attested in the historical records of those times. Hon. H. M. Brackenridge, in his "History of the Insurrection," remarks: "The case of Sheriff Hamilton, one of the most estimable men in the western counties, was much more aggravated. . . . It can not but excite the liveliest indignation to read the details of this case." Hon. William Findley writes as follows: "John Hamilton, of Washington, is high sheriff of that county, and colonel of a regiment of militia in the Mingo Creek settlement; though a number of this regiment were known to have had an active hand in the attack on Neville's house, and were in fact considered the greatest promoters of the insurrection, yet he not only kept himself from those outrages, but endeavored, as soon as he heard of the design, to prevent the rendezvous at Braddock's Field. When he could not prevent this, he put himself at the head of his regiment, and was very instrumental in preventing further outrages from being committed. . . . He attended all the meetings for restoring order, and, living where he did, he merited higher approbation if he had resided in Boston. Col. Hamilton was informed by a friend of the designs against him in time enough to make his escape, but, conscious of his innocence, he preferred traveling above thirty miles to where the judiciary then was, and presenting himself to Judge Peters, informed him that he had heard there was a charge against him, and requested to have it examined." After giving a detailed account of the subsequent events up to the time of his triumphant vindication, Mr. Findley adds: "Thus a man who was at the time sheriff of the county and a colonel of the militia, and who was in a part of the country and in circumstances where temporizing might have been excusable, was not only clear of any charge, but had merit, was illegally taken from the exercise of an office at that time of importance to the peace of the county, and without examination dragged down to Philadelphia in the winter by a military guard, paraded in a barbarous manner through the streets, thrown for some time into the cells, compelled to wear the word 'insurgent' in his hat, and then cast into prison, and after a long confinement admitted to bail. After this he was again required to cross the mountains to meet his trial, at which nothing was alleged against him."
That the popular sentiment fully approved Col. Hamilton's character and conduct appears from the civil honors which were immediately thereafter conferred upon him. In 1796 he represented the counties of Washington and Allegheny in the State Senate. In 1800 he represented in the same body the counties of Washington, Allegheny and Greene. In 1802 he was appointed, by Gov. McKean, associate judge of Washington county, but was shortly afterward elected a member of Congress, serving from 1804 to 1806. In 1820 he was again appointed associate judge, and continued in the office until his death. He was chosen a presidential elector in 1804, and voted for the re-election of Jefferson. In 1820 he was chosen, a second time, to the same position, and voted for the re- election of Monroe. Military offices were also filled by him almost continuously. Three several commissions, the first in 1786, were given to him as lieutenant-colonel of militia. In 1800 he was commissioned brigadier-general, and in 1807 "major-general of Fourteenth Division, composed of the militia of the counties of Washington and Greene."
Col. Hamilton was married June 2, 1796, to Miss Mary Patterson, of Westmoreland county, Penn. Of their family but two daughters survived the parents: Harriet, intermarried with David Hamilton, Jr., and Margaret, intermarried first with a Mr. Parker, and after his death with a Mr. Purviance. These two daughters inherited the paternal estate. A grandson, Thompson Purviance, gave his life to the country in the war of the Rebellion. Another grandson by marriage was Col. Henry A. Purviance, of the Eighty-Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, who also fell in battle, and whose remains are in the Washington (Penn.) cemetery. In his personal appearance Judge Hamilton, or, as he was often called, "General Hamilton," was of medium stature, heavy build, inclining to corpulence, of benign expression of countenance, and scrupulously neat in dress, never appearing in public without the snow-white ruffles and ivory-mounted cane, which were so generally affected in those days by elderly men in official position.
It should be remembered that Gen. Hamilton was a zealous friend of the cause of education. He was one of the first board of trustees of Jefferson College when it was chartered in 1802, and in this position he continued over thirty years. In Smith's history of Jefferson College, mention is made of the appointment in 1805 of a committee "to transmit to Gen. Hamilton, then in Congress, an account of the state of the college, for the purpose of aiding him in soliciting donations." Besides being a courteous gentleman and a public-spirited citizen, Gen. Hamilton was also a devout Christian. He lived and died in the communion of the Presbyterian Church. His death occurred August 22, 1837, in his eighty-third year, his wife surviving him but a few years. Their remains lie interred in the old Mingo graveyard.
DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM HAMILTON. William, another and older son of John Hamilton, Sr., was the progenitor of most of the families of this connection in the West, though he himself lived and died east of the mountains. He was married September 14, 1775, to Magdalena Bittinger. Their home was three miles west of Gettysburg, Penn. At the time of the Civil war the old homestead was still standing, and was used by the Confederates as a hospital during the battle. Their children's names, with dates of birth, are as follows: Margaret, born September 21, 1776; John, September 3, 1778; Florence and Jane, May 25, 1780; William, April 1, 1782; Joseph, September 1, 1784; Enoch, July 1, 1786; James, June 23, 1788; Robert, January 25, 1791; George, October 9, 1792; David, January 4, 1795; Jesse, October 15, 1797. Both parents reached advanced age, the father being over seventy when he died, and the mother almost ninety.
Margaret Hamilton, the eldest child of William Hamilton, was married to a distant relative David Hamilton. Her memorial may most conveniently appear in connection with that of her husband which immediately follows.
David Hamilton, Esq., was born in Adams (then York) county, Penn., in 1759. He removed with his father's family to Washington county, at an early period, and became possessor of the tract of land known as Ginger Hill. He was commissioned a justice of the peace in 1792, and for more than forty years continued in this office, filling it with more than ordinary acceptability and efficiency. His name occurs quite frequently in the historical records of the insurrection. That he took an active part in that great popular uprising is not to be denied. But there is no evidence that he approved of any of the acts of violence committed. Though he was present at the burning of Neville's house, the only connection in which his name appears is in the performance of an act of humanity. In his history, H. M. Brackenridge, relating the manner in which Major Kirkpatrick, who commanded the soldiers within the house, escaped, states: "Kirkpatrick, after being carried some distance under guard, was taken by David Hamilton behind him on horseback; where, thinking himself protected, he began to answer those who came up occasionally with indignant language, when Hamilton said to him: 'You see I am endeavoring to save you at the risk of my own safety, and yet you are making it still more dangerous for me.' On this he was silent, and being carried some distance further by Hamilton, he was advised to make his escape, which he did." Subsequently, when Hamilton was deputed by a committee of the people to go to Pittsburgh and return the pistols taken from Marshal Lenox, and require the fulfillment of what had been agreed upon on his part, it is testified by a witness under oath that, "Hamilton consented to go in order to prevent the people from coming in themselves and doing mischief, for there was danger of their going in that time." These and similar references show that, however strenuous may have been his opposition to the excise law, his influence was on the side of order and humanity. Though some attempts were made toward the close of the insurrection to apprehend him, he was successful in evading these efforts, and without serious molestation passed through the crisis in peace. In the famous congressional contest of 1794, just at the close of the insurrection, Hamilton was one of the five rival candidates, the others being Thomas Scott, H. H. Brackenridge, John Woods and Albert Gallatin. The last named, who was brought out only about ten days before the election, as what in modern days is called a "dark horse," won the contest, but by a very slight majority.
David Hamilton was married in early life to Margaret, daughter of William, and niece of Col. John Hamilton, a lady in whom were singularly combined the refined manners of the East, and the hardihood of the West. She lived to the advanced age of ninety-six, dying in 1872. It is related of her that she crossed the mountains to and fro between Adams and Washington counties seventeen times, and always on horseback except on her last trip. Five of Esquire Hamilton's sisters married husbands who established families well known in the county. Their names were Wylie, McDonough, Scott, Bolton and Barr. Two of his brothers were named Daniel and John. Daniel was a blatant insurrectionist, and the good name of David has suffered from its being confounded with that of his brother Daniel, who, along with John, emigrated to Kentucky toward the close of the century. Whatever hot blood may have coursed in David's veins in youth, his age presented the picture of a mild and courteous gentleman, an intelligent and useful citizen, and an exemplary Christian. For more than fifty years he was a member in full communion in the Presbyterian Church. At his death, which occurred May 10, 1839, in his eightieth year, he bequeathed half of his estate to the educational charities of that church. Providence denied to this worthy couple the gift of children. They sleep side by side in the old Mingo graveyard.
Joseph Hamilton, sixth child of William Hamilton, came west shortly after reaching manhood. Two strong ties in particular attracted him toward Washington county. David Hamilton, Esq., his brother-in-law, and Gen. John Hamilton, his uncle, were both residents of this county. Soon after coming west he was married, January 7, 1813, to Margaret, daughter of William Ferguson, of Pigeon Creek. For more than a quarter of a century following he resided in Williamsport (now Monongahela), where he wrought at his trade as carpenter and housebuilder, carried on a cabinet and undertaker's shop, and also kept an inn. In 1841, having bought the Ginger Hill farm from Esquire David Hamilton, he removed there, and lived on it until his death, November 9, 1849. His widow died at the same place, June 10, 1865. They were both lifelong members of the Presbyterian Church. He was for many years director and treasurer of the Williamsport Turnpike Company. He did much in the way of settling up decedents' estates. Eight children were born to them as follows: Sarah, October 24, 1813; Mary Jane, March 11, 1816; Margaret, May 23, 1819; Harriet, September 11, 1821; William Ferguson, March 24, 1824; David Ralston, June 26, 1826; John, September 25, 1828; Martha Isabel, February 3, 1831. Sarah was married to Henry Wilson. Two of their sons, Joseph H. and Robert F., fought through the war of the Rebellion. She survived her husband many years, and died at Washington, Penn., December 18, 1889. Mary Jane was married to Nimrod A. Gregg, and after his decease removed to Iowa, where she died. Two daughters, Mrs. McCauley and Mrs. Beck, and one son, Aaron T., still live in Iowa. Margaret died early. Harriet was married to T. R. Hazzard, Esq., whom she survived, her death taking place at Monongahela City, March 10, 1887. Two of their sons Chilion W., and Joseph DeV. fought through the war of the Rebellion. The former is editor of the Monongahela Republican; the latter resides in Florida. A younger son, Thomas L., is a physician in Allegheny, a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, and of Pennsylvania University. Martha Isabel, and her husband, M. Porter Patton, live in Iowa. They have three sons John, a lawyer, graduated in Michigan University; William, and Andrew all living in Denver and one daughter Margaret Isabel at home. William F. is a Presbyterian minister, and lives in Washington Penn.; John lives on the paternal farm at Ginger Hill, which he owns; David R., who is unmarried, lives there also. About fifty descendants of Joseph Hamilton and his wife, Margaret, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, survive.
David Hamilton, Jr., eleventh child of William Hamilton, came west in 1816. He was married December 28, 1820, to Harriet, daughter of Gen. John Hamilton. She died July 19, 1849; he survived her until December 10, 1886. When eighty years old he drove his mowing machine all day long under the fervid heat of a July sun. Of the six children born to them, two, Margaret A. and John P., died in childhood; two, Mrs. Eliza Cornelia Longwell and Mrs. Amanda J. Callow, died in mature life; two still survive, Mrs. Maria L. Henry, a widow residing in Monongahela City, and Mrs. Harriet Camilla Henry, residing with her husband in Tennessee.
WILLIAM FERGUSON HAMILTON, D. D. From a sketch of Dr. Hamilton published in the "Presbyterian Encyclopedia" in 1884, we quote as follows:
Son of Joseph and Margaret (Ferguson) Hamilton. Was born in Williamsport (now Monongahela City) Washington Co., Penn., March 24, 1824. He was graduated from Washington College, Penn., in the class of 1844, and from the Western Theological Seminary in 1849. Immediately after the completion of his theological studies he was licensed by the Presbytery of Ohio (now Pittsburgh) and in the following year was ordained by the same body, and installed as pastor of Centre Church, where he labored for two years. He has since, with ability and success, exercised the pastoral offices for ten years in Uniontown, Penn., and for seven years in the churches of Salem and Livermore, in the Presbytery of Blairsville. Since 1875 he has had charge of the Mt. Pleasant Church in the Presbytery of Washington (1875-87). Residing in Washington, Penn., for the sake of the education of his children, he has been called to render valuable service, for which his talents and scholarship have so well fitted him. One form of this was the instruction of the senior and junior classes in Washington and Jefferson College during the years 1876-80, in psychology and ethics. How ably he thus taught may well be left for inference to the readers of his masterly article in the Presbyterian Review of July, 1882, entitled "Recent Ethical Theory," an article which has attracted not only approval, but complimentary notice from high places. Among various fugitive articles, addresses and other pamphlets which he has published, in compliance with special requests, one claims a prominent place, viz.: an address delivered at the Centenary Celebration of the Redstone Presbytery, the mother Presbytery of the West, held at Uniontown, Penn., in 1881, which is a rich repository of historical information concerning one of the most important portions of our country and of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Hamilton is still in full vigor of his faculties. To the ability of an honored minister of the Gospel, he adds the pen of a ready and accomplished writer. His wisdom and skill in matters of the church, notwithstanding his characteristic modesty, compel his service as stated clerk of Presbytery, chairman of important committees, and in other representative duties, at the imperative call of his brethren. He was moderator of the Synod of Pittsburgh in 1873, the fourth annual meeting after the reunion of the church and the reconstruction of its courts.
Since the foregoing was penned Dr. Hamilton has rendered useful service as a leading contributor and editor of the "History of the Presbytery of Washington." It is probably on account of his work in these lines that he has recently been elected a member of "The American Society of Church History," and also of "The American Historical Association."
Dr. Hamilton was married January 28, 1858 to Miss L. Louisa, daughter of Isaac Beeson, of Mt. Braddock, Fayette Co., Penn. Their eldest son, Dr. Isaac Beeson Hamilton, who is a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, and of the University of Pennsylvania, practices his profession in Arizona. Another son, Rev. William Beeson Hamilton, also a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College, and of Princeton Theological Seminary, is a missionary of the Presbyterian board, stationed at Chinanfu, China. Another son, Joseph Hamilton, who recently graduated in Washington and Jefferson College, is now engaged in the study of theology, and has been licensed by the Presbytery of Washington. The youngest child, Louis Pennock Hamilton, is a student in Washington and Jefferson College. Three daughters Mary Kennedy, Margaret Ferguson and Eliza Lowrie complete the family circle. All the daughters are graduates of Washington Female Seminary.
JOHN HAMILTON, seventh child of Joseph Hamilton, is the present proprietor of the Ginger Hill farm. He has also added to it the two farms adjoining which constituted the homestead of his grand-uncle, Hon. John Hamilton. He was born September 25, 1828, in Williamsport (now Monongahela), Washington Co., Penn. When twelve years of age he was taken with his father's family to the Ginger Hill farm, where he has since resided continuously. On February 12, 1867, he was married to Elizabeth T. Purviance, of Pittsburgh, Penn., and one daughter has been born to their union, Elizabeth, who is pursuing her studies in Pennsylvania College for Women at Pittsburgh. Mr. Hamilton's farm, comprising some 400 acres of fertile land, is situated in Carroll township, four miles from Monongahela, and is one of the most beautiful country seats in western Pennsylvania. In political opinion Mr. Hamilton is identified with the Republican party, and in religion is an adherent of the Presbyterian Church.
OTHER DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM HAMILTON. Besides those already mentioned, two other sons of William and Magdalena Hamilton resided for several years in Washington county, and afterward removed elsewhere, as follows:
William, fifth child, born 1782, came west in 1803, locating at Ginger Hill, and the year following was married to Elizabeth Lafferty. In 1816 they moved to Harrison county, Ohio, and subsequently to Delaware county, in same State. He died in 1859. Morgan Clifford Hamilton, of Allegheny, Penn., is a grandson by a deceased son, William, and so far as known is the only living descendant.
George, tenth child, born 1792, was the last of the family, and came west. He was married March 17, 1817, at Hunterstown, Adams Co., Penn., to Nancy, daughter of James Dowley. They removed to Washington county in 1827. They were members of the Seceder Church in Somerset township, of which Rev. Bankhead Boyd was pastor. In 1837 they removed to Mercer county, Penn., where the mother died in 1857 and the father in 1860. Of their seven sons and five daughters, all are living but one the eldest. All the daughters and nearly all the sons are members of some branch of the church. Six of the twelve have each seven children living. The grandchildren number sixty-six in all. A very large proportion of these descendants are thrifty and moral persons.
WILLIAM FERGUSON, whose daughter Margaret was married to Joseph Hamilton, was one of the prominent citizens of Washington county in his day. He came from near Chambersburg, Franklin Co., Penn. In 1796 he purchased from Jacob and Michael Book [Bauch] a tract of land "Devises," in Somerset township, the same containing 296 acres, for which he paid 888 pounds sterling. He was married before coming west to Sarah Liggett, and they brought with them several children. He was for many years a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church of Pigeon Creek a man of fine personal appearance and more than average intelligence. Three of his daughters were married to Presbyterian ministers: Martha to Rev. Michael Law; Rachel to Rev. Samuel Ralston, D. D.; and Isabella to Rev. John Reed. Other daughters were married: Margaret to Joseph Hamilton, Sarah to Col. George McHenry, and Florence to James Macauley. These last two families moved west half a century ago. One son, Matthew, moved to Ohio early in the century. He was a Presbyterian elder there for over fifty years. Another son, Benjamin, moved to Springfield, Ill., in the "thirties." His descendants are there still. The names of remaining sons were Robert, Samuel and William. Many elders and wives of ministers are descendants. One grandson, James Ralston, died just after completing his preparations for the ministry at Allegheny Seminary, March 24, 1835. Rev. W. F. Hamilton, D. D., of Washington, Penn., and his son Rev. W. B. Hamilton, missionary in China, are respectively grandson and great-grandson. Toward the close of his life Mr. Ferguson entrusted his farm to the care of two sons, and removed to Williamsport (now Monongahela) to be under the care of daughters residing there. He died in 1833, aged eighty-seven, his widow a few years subsequently. They were buried at Williamsport.
Text taken from page 60 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
Transcribed April 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.
Published April 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.
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