William & Marth Ralston, Scots Irish Presbyterians in Colonial Pennsylvania

I like to try and immerse myself in the world of the ancestor I am working on. Context can provide important clues and paths to follow when trying to find appropriate genealogical and historical documents. For instance, it wasn’t until I went to West Yorkshire and travelled around there that I could with confidence trace my Ellison family back to the late 1600s. The context of the landscape and topography of the area were important facets of understanding this family.

As you know, I’ve been working on William Ralston (abt 1750- aft. 1801) of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. I know there is a microform I need from the Presbyterian Historical Society and some court records at the Pennsylvania State Archives, but both of these archives are closed due to the pandemic. I am trying to find a microfilm reader near me, as I think the PHS will loan me the film via interlibrary loan. The Library of Michigan is still closed so I cannot use their readers.

What I am certain of is William and his brother Robert Ralston were Scots Irish Presbyterians. I am not certain where they were born, my guess is Northern Ireland. We know with certainty that William claimed his land in Westmoreland County in 1769, according to a court record.

I have found a newspaper reference from The Pennsylvania Gazette that a nineteen-year-old William Ralston arrived in 1769 in Pennsylvania as an indentured servant and then ran away, and that he was Irish. For some reason, I am leaning toward this William as being mine. I think it is the idea of him making his way out to the frontier and claiming land in the wilderness, during hostilities with the indigenous people. Really imagine this in your mind, he showed up in the woods and had to build himself shelter, hunt/grow/find food to eat. There was no real town or settlement here at this time: Hanna’s Town was a few years away still. And he didn’t leave this land until after he lost the land in 1801 due to William Perry not fulfilling his obligations. I can see being a wanted fugitive indentured servant as adequate motivation to endure these hardships.

His brother Robert was on the other side of the Big Sewickley Creek (One side was called Huntingdon and the other Hempfield), but I think he followed William out there. Just because his name is William does not mean his father’s name was William. We do not know the birth order of this family and if he is first born he would have been named after his paternal grandfather. I am not sure his son William is his first born.

Everyone from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was termed “Irish” in the 1700s.

Here is a fabulous map I found to help picture the movements of the settlers and the changes in Pennsylvania. This map helped me ascertain that it is possible William was in Mercer County in 1800. When William and Martha had to sell their land in Westmoreland County, they listed themselves as being in Allegheny County at the time (1801). You can see that Mercer had just been formed out of Allegheny County in 1800.

Therefore, this is probably William and Martha in Mercer County on the 1800 census:

The census lists

Name William Rolston

Home in 1800 Mercer, Pennsylvania

Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25 1

Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over 1 WILLIAM

Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15 1 ISABELLA

Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25 1 JENNET

Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over 1 MARTHA

Number of Household Members 5

William had five sons: John (1776-1849), David (1778-1859), Jeremiah (1786-1847), Robert (1788-1835), and William (??-??). Who is the son living with them in 1800? Robert would have been twelve and Jeremiah fourteen.

Where were William’s minor sons in 1800? There should be at least two sons listed with him, unless one was apprenticing somewhere or with an older brother, such as David or William.

It is important to note that the two daughters were not married at this time. When searching for what happened to them, we can look for marriages after 1800.

Now I can try and locate William’s burial.

John was living next door. Here he is on the 1800 census with his family. The map above explains why in published articles about John he is listed as having traded his land in Lawrence County for land in Butler County. Lawrence County was formed from Mercer County in 1849.

Name John Rolston

Home in 1800 Mercer, Pennsylvania

Free White Persons – Males – Under 10 1    WILLIAM

Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25 1   JOHN

Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25 1  ELIZABETH

Number of Household Members 3

I have that John’s son William was born in 1800.

I just finished the book “The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania” by Judith Ridner (Temple University Press, 2018) and I recommend it.

It’s not a very long book, but it gives an overview of the Scots Irish (as they called themselves) and their migration from Scotland to Northern Ireland in the 1600s and then to America in the 1700s. It gives a good understanding of the politics of their time, their background, and their culture. The Scots Irish Prebyterians were seeking economic opportunity, including affordable land, and to be free of religious discrimination. Pennsylvania in particular was welcoming to people of all faiths. England had imposed Penal Laws, and required Presbyterians to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland (Anglican). Being a dissenter against the Anglican church created hardships for the Presbyterians in the 1700s.

One of the interesting things I learned was the importance of the production of linen to the Scots Irish families economic well-being and how this was a women’s trade. The Scots Irish grew flaxseed in America and the women spun this into linen thread which was woven into cloth, as they had done in Northern Ireland.

I can picture Martha Ralston at her spinning wheel, creating linen thread and teaching Jennet and Isabella to do the same.

Another fascinating tidbit is the Scots Irish carving of tombstones.

The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry (Richard Hampton Jenrette Series in Architecture and the Decorative Arts) by [Daniel W. Patterson]

There is a chapter on the hostilities with the indigenous peoples and Ridner relays information about a couple of horrific massacres perpetuated upon innocent Native Americans at the hands of a Scots Irish militia mob. The Scots Irish, generally speaking, hated the Indians and were prone to resolving all conflicts with the Indians through violence. The whites simply did not care that the land they were settling most often had been stolen or deceitfully obtained from the local indigenous tribes. Since William served on the frontier in 1780, we can make an educated guess that he most likely perpetuated acts of violence upon Native Americans. Andrew Jackson, president during the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their lawfully-owned lands which we refer to as the Trail of Tears, was Scots Irish.

William’s grandson, John Jr, married (about 1833) a woman, Nancy Agnes, who was both white and Native American and her son, Millen, married (about 1861) a woman who was white and also Native American.

The notes contain references to other books/articles I want to read now, such as Irish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan: Letters and Memoirs from Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1675-1815 (Oxford University Press, 2003); The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry (University of NC Press, 2012); Redemptioner and Indentured Servants in the Colony and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Karl Frederick Geiser, supplement, Yale Review, 10, no. 2 (August 1901); The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (UNC Press, 1944); Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003).

William Ralston’s Friend Jeremiah Lochry (1731-1824) of Westmoreland County, PA

Jeremiah Lochry (Lochrey, Loughry) was a pretty interesting guy. I can understand why William Ralston (1750 – aft. 1801) of N. Huntingdon in Westmoreland County might name one of his sons after him.

Jeremiah Lochry would have been about the same age as William’s father. Lochry was born about 1731 and he immigrated with his father, Jeremiah, and his brother Archibald prior to 1740 from County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. They settled in Lurgan Township, Cumberland County, PA and his father died before 1750.

Jeremiah died 21 JAN 1824 at the age of 94 in Westmoreland County and is buried at Congruity Cemetery.  Read a death announcement below:

There is a Robert Ralston who was buried in this cemetery in 1829 at the age of 40, whom I suspect might be Robert Ralston’s son, and William’s nephew.  In the Old Congruity Celebration William Ralston is listed as an elder. But I’m not sure if this is the William we are working on. I suspect that it is.

I have already listed and documented a few of Jeremiah Lochry’s service periods in the American Revolution.  His brother Archibald is the well-documented Colonel Archibald Lochry who was killed during a fight with Mohawk forces led by Simon Girty and Chief Joseph Brant in 1781. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Lochry

Lochry’s Defeat by Hal Sherman

I found a reference that Jeremiah Lochry’s wife was killed either at the burning of Miller’s Station or of Hanna’s Town in 1782. Lochry and his wife had one child, Barbara, born about 1760.



Jeremiah Lochry signed a 1774 petition, similar to the one Robert Ralston (spelled Roulston) in Hempfield Township signed, to Governor John Penn in regards to their fears of an “Indian war.” Jeremiah signed along with Robert Hanna out of Hanna’s Town.  We know that William Ralston lived very close to Hanna’s Town on the Big Sewickley. See History of Indiana County, Pennsylvania: 1745 to 1880, page 138.

According to the book Profiles of Patriots: A Biographical Reference of American Revolutionary War Patriots and their Descendants by Moira Ann Jacobs, in 1784 Jeremiah Lochry became a spy for the American Colonies, signing an oath and recruited by the President of the Extreme Executive Counsel of PA, John Dickinson. (page 54)

Much is written of Jeremiah and published in the Loughry Genealogy, including an autobiographical statement. See the pages listed below.

The historian “Day” says of him: “An old frontier man who had been in Armstrong’s Expedition, lingered around Kittaning for many years wandering from house to house, staying all night with people and repaying their hospitality with anecdotes of his adventures.”

I would surmise that our William was in the company Jeremiah talks about lastly, on pages 13 and 14.

You will note that William Perry was a neighbor to Jeremiah Lochry. You can imagine Lochry vouching for Perry to Ralston to secure Perry’s bonds with his lands.  The land Ralston ended up losing in 1801.

You can read the pages in the section on Jeremiah Lochry below:

William Ralston’s Connection to William Perry of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

I am still trying to figure out how William Ralston ended up owing the debt, along with John Miller, of William Perry.

The Pennsylvania State Archives does have the court records from 1792, but the archives are closed due to the pandemic.

I have found some things on William Perry and also more of a connection between the two and a bit more on Ralston’s service as a Ranger.

William Perry seemed to be a respectable sort of fellow.

He was the Captain of a company of rangers in Westmoreland County, sometime between 1778 and 1783. I tend to think toward the earlier years.

Here is a list of his company from the Pennsylvania Published Archives, Vol 23, page 335:

Take note that Jeremiah Lochry is listed under Perry’s company. Jeremiah was an important person in William Ralston’s life. He named one of his sons, Jeremiah. He was William’s neighbor. He was William’s captain when William was an Ensign in 1780 as a Ranger for Westmoreland.

Perry was a sheriff of Westmoreland County also for a number of years. Elected at Hanna’s Town in 1777 and still elected a sheriff through 1789. He was a collector of excise in 1778. He was also treasurer of Westmoreland County for some years. His people trusted him.

It seems something went wrong with Perry in 1787. John Nicholson posted public notices that as treasurer Perry had not settled his accounts and had until 2 July 1787 to do so.

Since the court case was determined in 1792, I am leaning toward this being the incident in which William Ralston ended up losing his land due to Perry’s debts (rather than the family story of 1778 in the Ralston books) but until I see the court documents, it is all speculation.

I was wondering why William Ralston, since he was in Westmoreland County in 1769, and was a young man at the time, hadn’t been more involved in the militia and I think I have found that he was earlier involved, not just in 1780.

He is listed on the list of Rangers on the Frontiers 1778 to 1783, which unfortunately has no precise date listed with service. He is listed on the general list and also as serving with George Baird’s company in Westmoreland County:

Since Lochry was serving in Perry’s company, not as a Captain, and Ralston in Baird’s company, not as an officer, I think these are earlier records of service because Lochry in 1780 was a Captain of his own company with Ralston as a Sergeant and then an Ensign and Perry was an elected official by this time.

I found this interesting article written by Gregory T. Knouff of Rutgers University, New Brunswick in which he talks about what it was like to be a Ranger on the Western Frontier of Pennsylvania. It is not pleasant to think about the violence and racisim in which William Ralston operated.

I have figured out, I think, how Ralston’s land was confiscated for some time during the Revolution, and this will be next time’s blog along with some more interesting information all gleaned from the Pennsylvania Published Archives. Stay tuned.

Not my Benjamin Ellison of Birkenshaw/Burnsall, Yorkshire

There are several Benjamin Ellison’s from the same ancient parish of Birstall in Yorkshire all born between 1781 and 1786. On Ancestry.com these men are being rolled into one man.

I myself made the mistake of thinking Frances Rebecca Ellison born 1814 and baptized at St Peter’s in Birstall was the daughter of my Benjamin Ellison but what made me realize the error was that my Benjamin Ellison was a currier, and never a woolstapler. Frances Rebecca’s father Benjamin was a woolstapler. I began trying to figure out who was this other Benjamin and Mary Ellison in Birstall, Yorkshire.

Benjamin Ellison (not my Benjamin!) was born in March 1784 in Cleckheaton (of the Birstall Parish) to John Ellison and Hannah Wilkinson. He had a sister named Sally born 1785 in Cleckheaton and also a brother named Edward born 1788. Sally married Richard Dixson and these two were the signed witnesses to Benjamin’s marriage to Mary Beaumont at St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex, England on 28 DEC 1809. This is why it is important to read the original documents yourself; they often give clues.

Mary Beaumont was the (well-off) daughter of Benjamin and Rebecca Beaumont. She and Benjamin had three children: Francis Beaumont Ellison (1810-1898), Frances Rebecca Ellison (1814-1889 and never married), and George Ellison (1819-1896). All of whom were well-off because of their mother’s estate.

Then Benjamin did a bad bad thing. He left Mary and his family in about 1843 and went to Penzance, Cornwall, England and was living with Mrs. Elizabeth Ruth Seamon. And in 1845, he murdered Mrs. Seamon. He was executed for this crime on 11 AUG 1845 in Cornwall and you can read the entire story here:


In the story, his son George is mentioned and it is stated he was from Birkenshaw. Birkenshaw is essentially the same area as Cleckheaton.

I have a couple more Benjamin Ellison’s to try and figure out as I am not certain of the parents of MY Benjamin Ellison who married Mary Maria Ambler in Baildon, Yorkshire and died in Burnsall in 1832. Benjamin and Mary Maria had my Walker Ellison, whose grave I just visited in Baildon. He named his son Benjamin Walker Ellison, following the naming tradition.

I am using the British naming tradition as a clue and so far, Benjamin and Mary Maria did follow this tradition, which means that Benjamin’s father was William Ellison. Unless William was not their firstborn son. They named their firstborn daughter after the maternal grandmother: Hannah Maria Margaret Ellison. And their second son, if William was the first, after the maternal grandfather John Ambler. More research to be done.


BENJAMIN ELLISON The above portrait of Benjamin Ellison, the murderer of Mrs. Seaman, of Penzance, is considered to be a good likeness, especially the upper part of the face and head; it was taken in the County Hall, Bodmin, while the unhappy criminal was receiving sentence of death for his awful crime. Ellison was a tall man, nearly six feet high, yet rather slightly formed. His aged was 61, and he was a native of Birkenshaw near Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He had received a superior education, and had moved in a respectable station in life, having been connected with the manufacturing interest of his native county. We understand that his wife and family are still living, to deplore his untimely and disgraceful end. About two years since, he left his wife and home, in consequence of disagreements about pecuniary matters, and had not been heard of by her or his relatives until after his committal for the murder. The wretched culprit suffered for his crime on Monday last, and a full and authentic account of the execution is given in our fourth page. [The description of his death has been omitted; however, the confession is printed in full. He acknowledged in a letter that Elizabeth Bramble, whose testimony he adamantly denied at the trial, did substantially tell the truth. Ellison’s two sons visited him, but his wife did not – nor did any other relative. Evidently, he had no money of his own, so the will he signed bequeathing property to Mrs. Seaman was “purely a fabrication”; his wife was “possessed of considerable property”. jm]




Ralston Family in Iowa News Clippings

I found these articles on my Ralston family, including Richard A Ralston, Ivan and Marjorie Ralston, William A and Nellie Mae Ralston, and Nellie’s parents: Charles Lester Eastman and Charity Welch Eastman.











The_Gazette_Sun__May_12__1946_WA Ralston
The_Gazette_Sun__May_12__1946_WA Ralston








William C. Davis & Almy Greene Davis Obits

These are the news articles pertaining to William C. Davis and Almy Greene Davis (nee Rathbun) you can order from the Geauga County Public Library. As you can see they are not truly obituaries as advertised prior to ordering.

Almy Greene Rathbun Davis and William C. Davis had at least three children: Eunice Amanda, Phoebe Sephina, and John H. Eunice Amanda married Samuel H Cutler and they adopted NP and Betsey (nee Welch) Townsend’s daughter Elizabeth E. Townsend born in 1848 in Cato, Cayuga County, NY. Betsey died from complications of childbirth. Eunice Amanda and Samuel renamed the baby Mary Alice Cutler. She married Benjamin Walker Ellison in 1862. Alice and Benjamin are my 3rd great-grandparents.

I am trying to figure out if I can determine where Eunice and Samuel were married, as Samuel remains a mystery. He shows up in 1850 in Elbridge, Onondaga County, NY and disappears after summer 1863 in Oakfield, Kent County, Michigan. If I can figure out where William and Almy were circa 1845, we could narrow down where Eunice may have met Samuel.

Click on link below:

Davis, Mrs. d. Jan 1880

The article reads: Claridon. The following, according to our record, is the number of deaths in the township for the year 1879. Feb 15, Mrs. Davis, 84 years. Geauga Republican, January 7, 1880, Page 1.

Click on link below:

Davis William d.1885

The article reads: Hambden. The remains of Mr. Davis were taken to Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland. His residence for the last eight years has been in the north part of Claridon.  Geauga Leader, March 6, 1885, Page 3.

Neither William or Almy left any probate estate records in Geauga County, Ohio.



Clara Barton’s Fourth Roll of Missing Soldiers

Terry Reimer, Director of Research at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, was kind enough to not only let me know that Darius Townsend was on Clara Barton’s rolls of missing soldiers, but he sent me a digital copy of the roll. Thank you, Terry!

The date on the paper reads May 1, 1866. You will see Darius under the list of missing Wisconsin soldiers. This means someone wrote to Clara Barton, looking for him. Notice his last name is spelled “Tounsend.”

These letters to Clara Barton are at the Library of Congress and the National Archives. I am going to search through what remains of those, which is not the thousands that were sent to her.

Roll 4 low res

Tobias Butler and Family in Lisbon Papers late 1890s

Over a year ago I was searching online newspapers and searched through Lisbon, Iowa for my Butler family. Tobias Butler and Bridget Burke were the parents of my great-grandfather William Edward Butler. Tobias was from County Tipperary, Ireland. William Edward Butler was the father of Marjorie Butler Ralston.

You will have to click on the links to open the PDFs.

In this first PDF of the newspaper from 1898, there is an obituary for Tobias’s only daughter, Elizabeth. She was the wife of Thomas Clark and was born in Dixon, Illinois on 22 OCT 1860. She married Thomas on 15 JAN 1882 in Lisbon, Iowa. They had 8 children, only 3 survived to adulthood. She was interred at the Catholic cemetery in Lisbon. You will see on the left column that Tobias of Cedar Rapids and R.A. (Tobias’s son) of Sioux City, Iowa came in for the funeral.


In this next one in the Lisbon Sun, dated 23 DEC 1887, the bottom left column has a snippet on Tobias Butler. His house near the train depot burned down, the family escaped, but all property, money, and bushels of potatoes were lost. A new house was planned to be built in spring.

Tobias Butler 2

3 AUG 1894 The Lisbon Sun reports that William Butler and family of Belle Plaine are visiting with Tobias Butler. Top of second column on left.

Tobias Butler 3

22 APR 1898 The Lisbon Sun reports that Tobias, living with his daughter Elizabeth in Lisbon, went to Cedar Rapids to spend the summer with his son. This would be my William Edward Butler. My grandmother used to tell stories about Tobias going from one of his children’s houses to another, and that reportedly, he liked living at her house the best. That her mother, Bridget Carroll Butler, was the kindest to him. Keep in mind that my grandmother loved her parents very much; they were extraordinarily kind, loving, and good.

You will note that Elizabeth died at the end of this summer, having been ill for one year (see first link).

Tobias Butler 4

From The Lisbon Herald, second column, middle:

“Tobias Butler died early this morning
at the home of his son John near
Stony Point. Tho funeral will be held
to-morrow at 10 o’clock in tho Catholic
church. Mr, Bntler was born in Ireland
and came to Lisbon a number of
years ago.”

He died on 5 MAY 1899.

Tobias Butler 5

From The Lisbon Herald, middle column:

Tobias Butler, ono of tho oldest set
tlers in this section of the country, died
at the home of his son, John, last Friday
morning, at the age of ninety.
Mr, Butler was born in County Tipperary,
Ireland, and came to America
in 1834, and settled in Illinois. He
came to Lisbon in 1866, and has been a
resident of this place ever since. In
1830 he married Miss Bridget Burk
who preceded him to the great unknown
a number of years ago. To them
was born six children, five sons and one
daughter. Of these, four sons remain
to mourn his departure. They wore all
present at the funeral to pay their last
respect to a loving father.
The funeral services were held in the
Catholic church, at 10 o’clock Saturday
forenoon, conducted by Rev. Father
Hartigan of Marion. Interment in
Catholic Cemetery.”

You will note in left column, RA and Will Butler both came in for the funeral.

I’m not sure how much of the information above in the obit is accurate. It does tell me he is buried somewhere in Lisbon, Iowa.

Tobias Butler 6

From Jan 1898, left column:

“Tobias Butler, who has been in quite
feeble health for the past -few years,
fell Saturday and received quite a severe

Tobias Butler 7

From Jan. 1898, second column to left:

“R. A. Butler, of Sioux City, spent a
few days in town this week visiting his
father, Tobias Butler, who has been ill
for the past few months. Mr Butler is
a conductor on the Sioux City and
Northern Railwav, from Sioux City to
Garretson, S. D. He has worked up to
a fine position and is taking good care
of it.”

Tobias Butler 8

From The Lisbon Sun, May 1899:

“The Death of Tobias Butler.
At the advanced age of ninety
years, Tobias Butler died on Friday,
May 5th, 1899, at the home of his son
John Butler, south of Lisbon. Tobias
Butler was an old settler at Lisbon,
having come to this locality in the
year 1866. For many years he was an
employee of the C. & N. W. railway,
and his home adjoined the track.
He came to America in 1834, from
the place of his birth,—County Tipperary,
Ireland. He resided in the
State of Illinois about twenty-two
years, and there married Miss Briget
Burk. To this union were born five
sons and one daughter. The wife
passed away many-years ago, and recently
the daughter preceded the
father to the spirit world; death also
claimed one son. The four sons remaining
are Richard, a railway conductor at
Sioux-City; William, a car repairer
for the C. & N. W. railway,
at Cedar Rapids; Thomas and John,
farmers in the vicinity of Lisbon.
These sons were all present at the
funeral, which was held at the Lisbon
Catholic church, on Saturday,
May 6th .Rev.. Father Hartigan, of
Marion, officiated. Burial occurred
at the Catholic cemetery, Lisbon.”

This is a great obituary. We have the information that he was married in Illinois. Where he was employed for many years. Where his sons are employed in 1899. Etc.

Tobias Butler 9