THE VANCE FAMILY were among the earliest pioneers of Washington county, and as nearly as can be ascertained, are perhaps the oldest settlers of Smith township. The first ancestor of these prominent citizens, of whom we have an accurate history, was one Maj. William Vance. Maj. Vance was born in 1718 in Scotland, and came to Virginia in early life, afterward moving to Washington county, Penn., where he died April 8, 1788. His son Joseph was born about 1750, near Winchester, Va., where he was married, and coming to Washington county, Penn., about 1773, located three miles southwest of Burgettstown, in Smith township, on a large tract of land. This land was then an unbroken wilderness, or, to quote a pioneer phrase: “There was not a stick amiss,” but it has since been divided into nine of the finest farms of Washington county. As soon as a rude shelter had been erected for the family, Joseph Vance, in company with a few of his widely parted neighbors, began the erection of what was known as “Vance’s Fort”. This was intended to protect the settlers from the murderous onslaughts of the treacherous Indians, who were yet numerous in the territory, and bitterly resented the encroachment of the palefaces upon their hunting grounds. The fort was situated but a short distance from the cabin of Joseph Vance, and stood for many years, the only signs of its existence now visible being a piece of brick-colored ground. At the gates of Fort Vance, under a white oak tree, on October 14, 1778, the Rev. James Powers preached the first sermon in English known to have been heard west of the Alleghany mountains in Pennsylvania. On this wild tract Joseph Vance and his wife passed their lives, with the exception of occasional visits to his birthplace, and as immigration increased, property rose in value. The vast tract of land, once seemingly almost worthless became very valuable, and the pioneers reaped the deserved reward of early years of toil, privation and danger. The first wife of Joseph Vance died many years ago, leaving him six children, viz.: William, John, Joseph, Elizabeth, Janett and Mary. Of this family one son, Joseph, returned with his father on a visit to Virginia, then went West and his fate was never known. For his second wife Mr. Vance was married to a native Winchester, Va., who died soon after their marriage, and he made a third choice in the person of Mary Moore, a native of Winchester, Va., who bore him two daughters: Anna Mary (wife of William Brady, Ohio county, W. Va.), and Hannah (married to Edward Morgan, Ohio county, W. Va.). The father died May 6, 1832, and in 1852 his faithful wife was laid beside him.
William Vance, eldest son of Joseph, was born November 30, 1775, on the old “Fort Vance farm” in Smith township, where his boyhood was passed in the usual duties of pioneer life, a large portion of them falling to his share as the eldest son. On December 24, 1799, he was married to Rachel Patterson, who was born June 3, 1781, daughter of William Patterson, of Cross Creek township, this county. To the union of William and Rachel Vance children were born, of whom the following is a brief record: Cynthia, born March 8, 1801, gave her hand in marriage to William Van Ostran (they moved to Wayne county, Ohio, where she died in 1884); Joseph, born September 18, 1802, was a farmer in Smith township, and died in 1864; James, born July 23, 1804, followed agriculture in Jefferson township, this county, and died in 1881; William P., born September 4, 1806, lived on a farm in this county for some time, thence moved to Hardin, Ky., and is now a retired farmer of Caldwell county, Mo.; Allison, born December 14, 1808; Elizabeth, February 17, 1811, and is now living in Burgettstown, Penn., the widow of David S. Walker; Ann was born November 8, 1812, and was united in marriage with Norris Walker (she died leaving a large family of children); David was born April 14, 1815, and died in infancy; and Rachel was born December 28, 1816 ( she was married to Josiah N. Scott, and is now deceased). On January 9, 1817, the mother of these children passed from earth, and on June 12, 1818, Mr. Vance was married to her sister, Hannah Patterson, who was born in 1786. Five children were born to this union, namely: Thomas P. (deceased farmer of Cross Creek township), born July 15, 1819; Mary (unmarried, living in Rome, Ga.), born June 1, 1821; Caroline (deceased wife of R. S. Caldwell, Hopewell township, this county), born December 30, 1824; John S., born June 7, 1827; and Jane (wife of J. S. Young, of Ohio, died in Rome, Ga., where they resided), born September 7, 1830.
During his early life the father resided on the home farm in Smith township, in company with his brother John, whose interest he afterward purchased. In 1816 William Vance was elected as representative of Washington county, in the State Legislature. He was an enthusiastic member of the Whig party, being a counselor and adviser among his friends, and having favored the tariff bill from its infancy. After the term of office had expired, Hon. William Vance returned to his farm, having made a signal success in the performance of his duties. He was a liberal contributor and attendant of the Presbyterian Church with which his wife was connected. He died April 18, 1856, and in 1878 his widow followed him. Both are buried in the Cross Creek Cemetery.
Allison Vance, the fifth son of William and Rachel Vance, was born on the “Fort Vance farm” in Smith township, receiving a limited subscription-school education, which he afterward supplemented by study and observation, eventually becoming a well-informed business man. On May 30, 1839, he was united in marriage with Margaret Campbell, who was born February 1, 1814, daughter of Robert Campbell, a pioneer of Smith township, Allison and Margaret Vance were the parents of seven children: John (a farmer of Smith township), born July 2, 1840, died August 14, 1884; William P., born September 1, 1842; Rachel, born February 28, 1845, died October 2, 1860; David, born October 7, 1847, died October 11, 1860; Robert C., (an extensive farmer of Cross Creek township), born June 19, 1850; James L., (now living on the old Fort farm), born October 23, 1853, and Leander, born October 21, 1856. Mr. and Mrs. Vance located on a part of the original Vance tract in Cross Creek township (now owned by his son Robert), and in 1859 settled permanently on the original tract. A worthy representative of an honored and successful family, Allison Vance was no exception to the rule, but on the contrary became even more prosperous than those preceding. Politically he was first a Whig, then a Republican. He and his wife were members of the Cross Creek Church, to which he contributed liberally. His wife died December 10, 1889, and March 8, 1890, the husband and father was also called home. Both were buried in the Cross Creek Cemetery. A singular fact is here recorded in connection with the death of Allison Vance. For the past four generations, the male ancestors of the Vance family have attained an advanced age. The first ancestor, Maj. William Vance, died at eighty-two, his son Joseph died in his eighty-second year; William, the son of Joseph, died at the same age, and, lastly, Allison Vance breathed his last, after having passed his eighty-first year.
Text taken from page 351 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
Transcribed January 1997 by LuShelle Fletcher of Grand Island,NE as part of the Beers Project.
Published January 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.
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