Benjamin Jones was the son of Benjamin Jones and Hannah Kirk. Born in 1781, he was a middle child in a large family. His father Benjamin was a tanner, who owned almost 300 acres of land in Honeybrook township, on the extreme northwest corner of Chester County.1 Some of the children of Benjamin and Hannah stayed in Chester County, while several, like the younger Benjamin moved west.
Around 1804 Benjamin married Sarah Waters, daughter of Jacob and Ann. Benjamin was one of the first men in his family to marry outside the old Chester County Quaker families. By the early 1800s, many had fallen away from the Society, including Benjamin’s parents, who married out of meeting in 1765. Sarah’s father Jacob Waters, a blacksmith, was from Upper Merion, possibly the son of Conrad Waters. Jacob had served in the militia during the Revolution. Around 1793 he bought land in Easttown, Chester County and moved there with his family, including his daughter Sarah. Around ten years later he and Ann moved to Licking County, Ohio, and settled there. The story is told that Benjamin and Sarah visited him there, “riding the entire distance from Rockville, Chester County, on horseback.”2
Benjamin and Sarah started their family with a daughter Ann in 1806 and went on to have ten children in all. Benjamin supported them as a tanner, following in his father’s footsteps.
In 1821 Benjamin and his brother Samuel inherited their father’s land. Benjamin got the northern end of the property, where he was already living. Samuel got the southern end, which included the main house, where their mother Hannah had the privilege of living during her lifetime. In the usual provisions Samuel was to bring her firewood and care for her cow. Benjamin and Samuel also shared a 50-acre tract, probably of woodland.3
In the spring of 1824, the family of Benjamin and Sarah was uprooted. Benjamin had fallen into debt, owing $482.79. His property was seized by the sheriff and both tracts were sold, the woodland tract of 30 acres and Benjamin’s 108-acre share of the family farm. The smaller tract was sold to Richard and Thomas Walker, while Samuel Jones bought the larger tract.4
Benjamin and Sarah left Chester County and moved their family 150 miles west into the mountains of central Pennsylvania, settling in the Spruce Creek Valley.5 Benjamin did not live there long. “He was also engaged in hauling iron to Pittsburgh and while on one of these trips contracted a fever, from which he died September 21, 1828.”6 The early death of Benjamin probably the family in distress. He left Sarah with a large family of children, ranging in age from 3 to 22. Two of the daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, died in infancy, possibly from consumption, a common disease of the poor at the time. Yet the sons flourished, becoming solid citizens, successful businessmen, and fathers of large families. The daughters fared less well. One suffered from mental illness and died in an asylum (Nancy); one died in the prime of life from consumption (Hannah); one lived to see her son sent to prison for murder (Mary Ann).
Children of Benjamin and Sarah:
Nancy Ann, “Ann”, b. 26 June 1806, d. 1872, m. James Hunter. After her husband died she lived with her sister Mary Ann LaPorte.7 Nancy died in an asylum in Harrisburg in 1872, according to testimony by her brother Samuel in the 1885 murder trial of Jack LaPorte8. The family was trying to get Jack acquitted on the grounds that insanity ran in his mother’s family.
Samuel, b. 23 Jan 1808, d. 1894, m. 1829 Elizabeth Mattern, daughter of David and Catherine. Samuel was a potter. He became a justice of the peace, a trustee of the Presbyterian Church, and a well-known figure in Tyrone.9 In 1889 he and Elizabeth celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary, hosting a celebration with their families, including nineteen grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He died in 1894, as one of “Tyrone’s oldest citizens”, according to his obituary in the Democratic Watchman of Bellefont.10 Elizabeth died in 1897.11 Children: Catherine, Benjamin, Christia Ann, Sarah Jane, Lucinda, David, Charles, Emaline, Aaron.12 Only Benjamin, Charles and Emaline (Hiltner) survived their father.13
Caleb, b. 28 May 1809, m. 1834 Catherine Mattern, dau. of David and Catherine, a carpenter. Caleb married Catherine Mattern in 1834. They lived in Franklin Township through 1840, later moved to Clarion County, Pennsylvania and farmed there for a time, then moved to Wabasha County, Minnesota. He died in 1882 and Catherine died in 1896. Children of Caleb and Catherine: Luther, Sarah, Susanna, Albert, Oliver, Sylvester, Catherine, Amanda, Mary Ann.14
Mary Ann, b. 3 May 1813, d. 1887, m. ab. 1833 John LaPorte, lived in Spruce Creek Valley. John was a farmer and judge on the county court.16 Their son Jack was convicted of murder in 1885. Two of the sons, Samuel and Lemuel, fought in the Civil War and never fully recovered from the experience. Children of Mary Ann and John: Benjamin J, Samuel, James Hunter, Lemuel, Anson, Adolphus, Elmore, Sarah Margaret, Jack. John died in 1899, impoverished by the expensive defense of his son in the murder trial.
Sarah, b. 9 April 1815, died in infancy.
Elizabeth, b. 2 December 1817, died in infancy.
Jacob Waters, b. 30 Nov 1819, a carpenter and contractor. He married Rebecca Burley in 1844. They lived in Philipsburg, where he had a “large and successful business”, later moved to Tyrone. Jacob died in 1898, survived by six children. Children: Margaret, Orlando, Elvira, Nancy, Lewis, Delcena, Paul, Lisle, John.17
Benjamin, b. 10 Dec 1823, d. February 1910 in Tyone, m. in 1848 Margaret Rye, apprenticed as a carpenter, built houses in Tyrone with his brother Jacob, moved to Philipsburg and worked in several businesses there.18 Benjamin and Jacob were early builders in Tyrone. “About the same time the city of Tyrone was being laid out, and there the brothers purchased a couple of lots and erected homes of their own in the fall of 1851, when only about three houses adorned the present site of that now flourishing city.”19 Children: Oliver Perry, Ella, Lot, Mary Ann, Dwight.20
Sarah, b. 18 Dec 1826, d. March 1899. She lived with the household of her sister Hannah (Bell) and kept house for the family after Hannah died. Around 1852 she married Amos Gingrich, who died a few years later. They had a daughter, born September 1856, who lived to be 96 and died in Tyrone in 1953.21 Sarah then married William O. Myers.22 Children of Sarah and William: Carrie, Mary, Jennie.23
- Chester County tax lists, deeds, wills. ↩
- Commemorative and Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania, 1898, p. 357, biography of Benjamin Jones, son of Benjamin and Sarah. ↩
- Chester County wills, estate file #6947. ↩
- Chester County deeds, Book X-3, p. 246 and p. 307. ↩
- According to the biography of Benjamin Jones Jr, they moved west in the spring of 1824. His 1910 obituary said it was the spring of 1821. The earlier record is more likely, as they would have moved when they lost their land, not three years earlier. ↩
- Biography of Benjamin Jones Jr. The biography also said that Benjamin Sr was a “prominent and influential man of the community where he made his home”. This seems unlikely. Influence usually came from wealth, which he did not have. ↩
- 1860 census, Franklin Township, Huntingdon County. ↩
- She became insane, according to Samuel’s testimony, and died in 1872 in the State Hospital in Harrisburg. The trial was covered extensively in the Huntingdon Globe, available at the Juniata College Library in Huntingdon. The testimony about Nancy’s illness was on September 24, 1885. ↩
- Wiley, Samuel T. and W. Scott Garner, ed., Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Blair County, Pennsylvania, 1892, p. 499, biography of Samuel’s son Charles. ↩
- Spangler Notebooks, Centre County Library, number 106, p. 26. ↩
- Her obituary in the Altoona Tribune, 28 July 1896. ↩
- Biography & Portrait Cyclopedia, p. 499; census records. ↩
- His obituary in the Tyrone Herald, August 2, 1894. ↩
- Census records of 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880. ↩
- Federal census Mortality Schedule 1850, Franklin Township, Huntingdon County. ↩
- Census records for Franklin Township, Huntingdon County; John’s application for a pension in 1897 (NARA); burial records; obituaries. ↩
- Census of 1850, 1860, 1870. ↩
- His obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, Feb 16, 1910. ↩
- Biography of Benjamin Jr, Commemorative and Biographical Record…, p. 357. ↩
- Commemorative and Biographical Record.. Four other children died as children. ↩
- PA State Death Certificate of Sarah McLanahan, daughter of Amos Gingrich and “Sarah Watters Jones”. ↩
- Her obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, March 20, 1899. ↩
- From the census of 1870 and 1880, Tyrone, Blair County. ↩