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ON THE ROAD (Part 2) Coshocton County

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DSCN0203I stand at the remnants of the Ohio-Erie Canal in Coshocton County, Ohio near the restored old Roscoe Village, a dogwood and redbud dotted treasure through which the Walhonding and Tuscarawas rivers flow and join to become the Muskingum. Coshocton County was home, at one time or another between the 1820’s and 1880’s, to my great grandfather and his parents and grandparents, my great grandmother and her parents and grandparents, AND my great grandmother’s husband’s family. Wow!

So yesterday I spent the day at the Coshocton County Library in Coshocton, Ohio. The library spawned library-envy in me, as it would in all my Friends of the Auberry Library family. A long span of oak pillared, carved oak trimmed alcoves with a naturally lit reading corner at one end and a great family history collection at the other greeted me, as did a fabulous staff.

After seven hours, I had found clues to a brick wall (begging research when I return), excellent books for each township mapping the graveyards, and a reminder of how much I dislike microfilm. But in one of the graveyard books someone threw in a treasure.[i] Here is an excerpt, and there is more…this is just a piece.

“The first [mill] was located on the Ed Steiner farm, one mile north of Avondale, now Fresno. It was built in 1832 by Thomas Diehl and had an undershot wheel sixteen (16) feet in diameter and about three (3) feet wide… Its two stories towered above the wooded slopes of historic White Eyes creek and stood on a foundation 32 x 40 feet…The mill was purchased by Andy Croy, father of the late David Croy in 1839 and operated by him for 16 years.”

My finds will require some contemplation and additional research, but I will write about them when I can find time for both. Meanwhile, after a last bit of Coshocton grave and land hopping, I take what I’ve learned and drive back in time to Stark and Carroll County where the first known Jacob Croy and his wife, Mary Huston Croy arrived, probably by 1798.

[i] White Eyes Township, Coshocton County: Cemeteries…, Coshocton County Chapter, OGS, P.O. Box 128, Coshocton, Ohio, Pg 174: housed at the Coshocton County Library, Family History Collection.

Probate Records: Why Historians, Genealogists, and Writers Should Love Them

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy's death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

Mary Moore Croy never remarried after David Croy’s death in 1878 at 35. The inventory gives insight into her life and interests.

How excited can one genealogy/history/historical fiction writer get…over probate records?

  • Historically, you discover what ordinary people valued and find hints regarding social hierarchies.
  • Genealogically, the records can provide answers to specific genealogical questions, from the names and relationships of heirs to the actual death date of the deceased, not to mention unveiling the personalities of those involved.
  • For writers, these records paint a picture, through the details found there, of the life they lived.

I didn’t have time to delve any new records on-line. I was busy with the “final” edits of my book of historical fiction based on my Pennsylvania family history and starting a new one on my New Haven roots. So I tried to ignore the big event, Ancestry’s grand reveal of a host of new will and probate records. I tried. I couldn’t do it, and I am so glad I gave in and took a peak!

With a special shout out to the distant cousins, and anyone else out there who follows my blog-search these records! Unfortunately, if you didn’t log on during the Labor Day weekend, Ancestry’s freebie “come-on” has passed. But the information is worth gold (well, come on, I’m a history nerd).

One caveat, the records are NOT complete, so don’t forget to contact individual courthouses and libraries. For example, of all 88 of the Ohio Counties, only eight are included.

I recommend going directly to the new information on the Ancestry site. Here’s how:

  1. After logging on to Ancestry, make sure you are on their home page.
  2. At the top you will see “New and Exclusive U.S. Wills and Probate Records.” Click “Search Now”
  3. There you may begin your search, get a quick introduction, or view a research guide. Note: you must view all this on their new site. They are encouraging those who use Ancestry to break away from the old version of their search site.
  4. Now put in the name you are interested in researching. I used surname only so I could browse with my family sheets in mind.

What did I find so far? (I say so far because it will take some time to ferret out all the wonders hiding in these records.)

  1. Probate records for Alexander Huston, Montgomery County (father of Mary Huston Croy Roberts…the heroine in my book of historical fiction), including wonderful tidbits like the fact that he owned a Rhone, Sorrel, and Bay mare and colts. Also, his wife, Mary Ann, purchase 8 yds Muslin for $5, 1 and ¾ gallons whiskey for $1.32, and 1 lb coffee for $.50. The purchases of other family members are also recorded.[i]
  2. The will of Jacob Oswalt II who married Sarah Huston. (Parents of Susannah Oswalt who married Andrew Croy, my 3x great-grandfather.) Recorded in Seneca County, where he finally ended up, it includes this comment “Michael Oswalts, John Oswalts, Samuel Oswalts, Jacob Oswalts and Joseph Oswalts…each one Dollar to be paid out of my money that Jacob Shoe Jr has in his possession…” His daughters split the proceeds from the “two forty acre lots lying in Big Spring Township, and one town lot lying in the town of Springville, Seneca County, Ohio…” (I also found the records of Jacob Oswalt’s father, his stepbrother, and his son.)[ii]
  3. The names of two of Edward Huston’s children. (A son of Alexander)[iii]
  4. The will of Mat(t)hias Croy (likely brother of Jacob Croy, husband of Mary Huston, out of Londonderry Township, Bedford PA) which included the married names of his daughters.[iv]
  5. The probate record of John Croy (again, the likely brother of Jacob Croy) where, on one of many pages, I found this: “…money on hand at the decease of John Croy on the 2nd of August 1824” (and the records of a number of his children).[v]

And then, when I didn’t think it could get any better, this e-mail arrived: “I have copied the handwritten recording of the will of Alexander Houston.  I have also copied the Chancery Record of John Huston v. Henry McGrath (40 pages).  For these copies and postage, please send $10.05” So, never let Ancestry or any on-line source be the only place you research. If you aren’t lucky enough to live where you’re researching, a letter (snail or e-version) and a stamp do wonders.

Media credit:Probate Records of Mary Moore Croy, wife of David Croy: 1 December 1899. Washington County Probate Court, 205 Putnam St., Marietta, OH. Microfilm Copies: acquired 13 August 2015.

[i] Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 139, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[ii] Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Probate Records, 1828-1954; Probate Place: Seneca, Ohio; Probate Date: 26 September 1836.

[iii] Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Case # 3234, Ca. 1841-1861; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

[iv] Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Will Records, 1804-1919; General Index to Estates, 1801-1935: Ohio. Probate Court (Belmont County); Probate Date: 9 October 1837.

[v] Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line, accessed 9 September 2015] Montgomery County, Ohio, Estate Files #597-666, # 659, Ca. 1810-1887; Probate Place: Montgomery, Ohio.

The Will’s Creek Community

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Andrew Huston Land Warrant

Andrew Huston Land Warrant

In southwestern Pennsylvania, between present-day Bedford, PA and Cumberland, Maryland, run a series of long narrow valleys created by a system of ridges in the Allegany Mountain Range. In one of them, between the Allegany Front on the west and Will’s Mountain on the east, runs Little Will’s Creek joining the main artery of Will’s Creek. The valley then opens up to where numerous “runs” traverse the valley, emptying into the ever widening Will’s Creek as it works its way to the Potomac. Situated on the edge of the frontier, European settlers began trickling into this valley in the mid 1700’s.

The area was under the jurisdiction of Cumberland Valley Township up until 1785 when Londonderry Township was formed. By taking the first tax records for Cumberland Valley Township, 1771 (found in The Kernel of Greatness: an informal bicentennial History of Bedford County) and comparing them to the Londonderry Township list from 1786, I was able to infer the names of the first and subsequent settlers into the valley. An overview of the results is found here. Outline of inhabitants of Wills Creek (If anyone is interested in the spreadsheet where I calculated my results, let me know and I will send it to you.)

Andrew Huston, father of Alexander Huston, my five times great grandfather, was the first recorded settler in the Will’s Creek area in 1771. His land warrant, recorded in 1784, gives March 1763 as the date of first habitation.  In 1773, Laurence Lamb entered the valley (again based on tax records.) His daughter, Mary Lamb, married, Richard Croy, the probable brother of Jacob Croy. The Croys first appear on Cumberland Valley tax records in 1776. Jacob Croy married Mary Huston, the daughter of Alexander Huston. Jacob Oswalt, who married Rebecca Huston, Andrew’s daughter, arrived in 1776 as well. If that isn’t hard enough to follow, the son of Jacob and Mary Croy, Andrew, married the daughter of Jacob and Rebecca Oswalt, Susannah.

While today’s society views blood ties as close as these skeptically, frontier America during the revolutionary period was scantly populated and these close-knit relationships were inevitable. Based on my research, for example, no more than 15 to 20 families represented by no more than 8 or 9 surnames lived in the isolated Will’s Creek community by 1779.

Note in the land warrant pictured in this blog that the warranted land borders a Nicholas Liberger. The lives of these people best finds expression through their own first-hand accounts. One vivid account comes from Nicholas. My next blog looks at the more intimate details of those lives.

Morriss, Salling, Judy, Utterback, and Ely Family History

As reported in an earlier blog, I broke through a brick wall in the family history of my grandmother’s mother Gillian (Gillie) Virginia Morriss Ison. Since returning from our Pennsylvania trip, I’ve spent most of days in my “cave” researching this piece of family and American history.Family Tree and Sheets for Gillie V. Morris Ison

Gabriel Ison and son Frazier

Gabriel Ison and son Frazier

Like the Ison family that Gillie joined, the Morriss family and its extended branches migrated over time from Virginia through Kentucky and into Missouri. Gillie’s father Peter Philander Morriss married Elizabeth Ely, part of the Ely family of Ralls County, Missouri, a place where creeks and roads carry the Ely name. They were original settlers to the area, along with the Judy (Tschudi) family and Utterback family with whom they intermarried, and held extensive land holdings near the elbow of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Peter and Elizabeth settled down in Chariton County, Missouri not far from the Howard County home his mother and father had settled after coming from Kentucky via Scott County, Virginia. Scott County is the gateway to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap and a family home of the Gabriel Ison’s father as well. This connection may in fact be a factor in how Gillie and Gabriel met.

The origins of these families are varied and interesting. Some bulleted highlights:

  • MORRISS – Thomas Morriss’ grandfathers had met on the ship “Active” coming from London to Virginia as indentured servants in 1774. (If anyone is interested in this period of history, I strongly recommend the Pulitzer Prize winning book Voyagers to the West by Bernard Bailyn.)
  • SALLING – Peter Morriss’ father Thomas H. Morriss married Malinda Salling who came from Scott County, Virginia. Her great grandfather John Peter Salling was commissioned to explore the Kentucky territory in about 1740. One of the first white men to venture into the area, he was captured by Cherokee’s, traded to the French in New Orleans and eventually made it home to Rockbridge County. He came originally with his family from Teiffenbach in the Palatinate of Alsace-Lorraine.
  • JUDY (Tschudi) – Mary Polly Judy married Isaac Ely, a judge in Ralls County, Missouri while in Kentucky. The family had arrived moved to Kentucky from Pennsylvania after arriving from Switzerland. Her father fought in the Revolutionary War in the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment.
  • UTTERBACK (Otterback) – The family originally immigrated from Trupbach in the North Rhine-Westphalia Palatinate to Fort Germanna in Virginia Colony. They were brought there in 1714 under the sponsorship of Governor Alexander Spotswood to develop the iron works industry.
  • ELY – In 1762 Isaac Ely, who had arrived from Scotland or England (accounts vary) received a land grant from Lord Fairfax on both sides of the Cacaphoen River and surveyed it with William Scott, whose wife he married after William’s death.

The family tree from Gillian Virginia Morriss back to the early 1700’s along with all family sheets is included above. I encourage you to examine them, especially that of Isaac Ely and Mary Polly Judy. More on them and the family during the Civil War in my next blog.