Category Archives: LaPorte

Harry and Jessie LaPorte

A train locomotive with its crew, posing for a portrait.
Harry is the engineer, in the front on the left.

Harry Watson LaPorte was a railroad man. He was a young man on the move, which must be how he met his future wife over in Mifflintown.1 As their marriage notice put it, “He is a very refined young man of Tyrone. He has friends wherever he goes.”  In 1897 he was the Chief Engineer for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Tyrone Division, organized six years before. There were about 40 members and they met at the Odd Fellow’s Hall twice a month.2 The Pennsy was a big employer in Tyrone at its peak payroll of over 500. There were three branches in the Tyrone Division: The Bald Eagle Valley line ran northeast to Bald Eagle Creek at Lock Haven; the Tyrone & Clearfield ran over the Allegheny Mountain to Osceola, Philipsburg, Clearfield, and Curwensville; and the Lewisburg & Tyrone ran to Scotia. Other lines connected Tyrone to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and points east. The Division offices were in Tyrone. “In a room on the second floor may be heard, not the clack of tongues, but the click of keys. Here sits A.A. Witter, the Division Operator, in the focus of a network of wires, like a spider in the midst of his web and, with the aid of his assistants, watches the motions of each train that is out upon the road. Unlike the spider his work is not to devour but to save…”3

1893 map of part of the PRR system (from Wikipedia)

Harry and Jessie were married in 1891, by Rev. Davies at the Presbyterian Parsonage in Tyrone.4 Their first child was born six months later. The newspaper account described Harry as a fireman on the Clearfield and Tyrone branch railroad; he was not an engineer yet. They lived in Osceola Mills, north of Tyrone in the iron ore country, where their first child was born. They apparently moved to Tyrone before 1894, when the next child was born.5 They were members of the First Presbyterian Church in Tyrone, where their children were baptized.6

In 1900 Harry and Jessie were living in Tyrone. He was now a railroad engineer. They had four children living with them: Ada, Ira, Virgil and Richard. Blanche Pannebaker, a sister-in-law, age 14, was living with them, and probably helping with the children.  By 1910 they had moved to Rush Township, Centre County. This must have been a company town, since they were surrounded by other trainmen, foundry workers and coal miners. Five of the children were living with them: Ada, Foster, Virgil, Harry, and Karl. Richard had died in 1906 of diphtheria.

Harry died in 1928 in Tyrone. Jessie survived him for many years. She lived her last years with her son Karl and his wife Katie in Tyrone, and died there in August 1953. Harry and Jessie are buried at Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.7 All of their children are buried in the Tyrone cemetery as well.

Children of Harry LaPorte and Jessie Pannebaker:

Ada Lyons, b. July 8, 1891, bapt. 1897, d. September 1976, m. John W. Long, son of  David & Elizabeth.  She was born in Osceola Mills, up north of Tyrone in the iron ore country.8  She grew up in Tyrone, married John Long in 1913 and had four sons: David, Joseph, Harry and Richard. She lived in Tyrone until the very end of her life when she moved to a nursing home in Hollidaysburg. She and John are buried in Tyrone.

Ira Foster, known as “Foss”, b. Nov. 11, 1894, bapt. July 1897, d. Jan. 3, 1975, m. Mildred “Mick” Sprankle in 1923. Served in the First World War, in France from May 1918 to May 1919. His unit was there for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the principal battle of American soldiers during the war. Did he learn electrical work while in the army? Foss worked as an electrician for the Pennsylvania Railroad for 42 years.9 He married Mildred Sprankle, known as “Mick”. Foss and Mick had no children together, but Foss adopted a son of Mick’s from her first marriage, William Plowman (who took LaPorte as his last name). Mick and Foss spent their winters in Arizona, where he died in 1975, and she died in 1980.10 They are buried in Tyrone.

Virgil Corbett, b. Jan. 14, 1896, bapt. July 1897, d. Sept. 1960, m. Zelda Hartman. Virgil grew up in Tyrone. In 1918 he was inducted into the army, like his brother Foss, and sent to France. He later claimed that he had been exposed to phosgene gas while there, either in the St. Mihiel sector or the Argonne forest.11 When he returned he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a machinist in the signal department. He married Zelda Hartman, daughter of David and Charlotte, before 1930, and moved to Perry County where he worked as a signal helper.12 Zelda died on Dec. 30, 1930. There were two stories in the family about her death: an ectopic pregnancy or an unspecified ailment due to food faddism.13 Virgil never married after her death. He was well-known in Tyrone for his athletic prowess, as an amateur wrester (system champion of the PRR competition), coach for swimming and basketball teams, and referee.14  He died in 1960 and is buried with Zelda at Eastlawn Cemetery, Tyrone.

Long man in a wrestling pose.
Virgil LaPorte as a wrestler (studio portrait)

Richard Porter, bapt. July 2, 1899, d. August 29, 1906 of diphtheria, buried in the Tyrone cemetery.15 There were other contagious diseases in Tyrone at the time of his death. The Tyrone Daily Herald reported a daily list of persons quarantined, and on August 31 Virgil LaPorte and Ada LaPorte were both quarantined. The State Department of Health published strict rules. People who died of certain diseases, including cholera, meningitis, diphtheria, yellow fever, scarlet fever had to be buried within thirty-six hours and there could be no funeral for them.

Harry Alvin, b. 1902, bapt July 1904, d. May 1969 in Pompano Beach, Florida, buried in Tyrone. Harry lived in Florida and never married. He travelled with a circus until he retired, then worked as a short-order cook.16 He died in Florida in 1969, but is buried in Tyrone.

Karl Eugene, b. Jan. 22, 1906, d. December 1976, m. Louella Kathleen Kaufman, “Katie”. Karl grew up in Tyrone, graduated from Juniata College, and became a teacher. He taught in the Tyrone schools for 39 years.17 He was an outstanding athlete, and coached football, baseball and basketball for the Tyrone teams. In December 1940 he married Louella Kathleen Kauffman, known as “Katie”, the daughter of Harry and Anne Eyer Kauffman.18 Karl and Katie had two children, Nancy and Terry.19 Karl died in 1976. Katie died in June 1982. They are buried together at Eastlawn Cemetery.

  1. Jessie Pannebaker had two brothers who ended up in Tyrone, Van and Alton, but not until later. She was the oldest of nine.
  2. Rev. W. H. Wilson, Tyrone of Today: Gateway of the Alleghenies, 1897, p. 58
  3. Wilson, pp. 76-77.
  4. Morning Tribune, Altoona, January 19, 1891, a license issued to Harry W. Laporte, of Tyrone, and Miss Jessie M. Pannebaker, of Mifflintown.
  5. The dates of birth are from the family Bible, originally David Long’s. When it was passed down to Ada LaPorte Long, she wrote in the dates of birth for her and her brothers, but apparently got two of them wrong, for Virgil and Karl. There are other sources, such as obituaries, to help settle the question.
  6. Penna. Church & Town Records 1708-1985, on Ancestry.
  7. They are not listed in Findagrave, which seems incomplete for the Tyrone cemetery. This is from his death certificate.
  8. Recollection of Harry H. Long.
  9. His obituary, Tyrone Daily Herald, Jan. 4, 1975
  10. She is in the 1920 census of Tyrone, living with her parents, a widow, teacher in a public school, mother of two young sons, William and Harold. Her married name was Plowman. (1920 census of Tyrone, Blair County, ward 6, District 122, image 23.)  No further records of Harold.
  11. His veteran’s pension application in February 1934.
  12. 1920 census
  13. From Harry H. Long and Nancy L. Jusick.
  14. Numerous mentions in the Tyrone Daily Herald, including 3/26/1921; 3/18/1927; 7/27/1936; 1/30/1937.
  15. Tyrone Daily Herald Necrology for 1906.
  16. Recollections of Harry H. Long
  17. His obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald of Dec. 10 1976.
  18. Anne died in childbirth and Harry later married Mary Dixon. (Recollections of Nancy LaPorte Jusick and Terry LaPorte).
  19. Nancy married Stephen Jusick, son of Stephen C. and Mary Jusick of Philipsburg. Stephen and Mary owned the Ramsdale Hotel in Philipsburg for years. Nancy and Stephen Jusick have two children, Stephen Kent and Jill. Jill married Mark Bentley in 1993. They have three sons. Terry LaPorte died in 2016 in Bel Air, Maryland.

Anson and Nancy LaPorte

Anson LaPorte as an older man, with a white mustache.

Anson Parson LaPorte was the grandfather of Ada LaPorte Long, and she remembered him, along with his brothers Hunter and Dolf. According to her, Anson worked for the Carnegie Company at one time and had an opportunity to go to Pittsburgh with Carnegie, but refused, thereby missing a chance to make the family fortune.1 She also believed that Anson drank too much. There is no evidence for either of these stories.

Anson was born in 1842 in on the family homestead in the Spruce Creek Valley. He learned the trade of wagon maker from his father John, and worked as a wagon maker or carpenter all his life.

When he was 21 he enlisted in the Civil War, where three of his brothers would also serve. His enlistment papers describe him as 5′ 8″, with gray eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. He served in two regiments. The 46th Regiment Militia Infantry was organized at Huntingdon on July 1, 1863, for the protection of Pennsylvania during Lee’s invasion. It was mustered out on August 18, 1863. The 205th Infantry Regiment, his second enlistment, saw more action. It participated in siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond, constructed fortifications at City Point, Virginia, supported the Weldon Railroad Expedition, fought at Fort Stedman and in the Appomattox Campaign, served at the assault on Petersburg, pursued Lee to Burkesville, and was mustered out on June 2, 1865. Anson rose to the rank of corporal and apparently survived the war with minimal ill effects, although years later he claimed a pension based on a fractured ankle caused by a fall at the Battle of Fort Stedman in Petersburg, on March 25, 1865.2

Between the two enlistments Anson married Nancy Ann Watson in Altoona in 1864. They moved in with her parents John and Mary Ann, in Franklin Township, and were still there in 1870, with three children: Harry, Ella and Charles. They owned no real estate and had just $200 in personal property.3  They moved to Orbisonia, down in Huntingdon County, for a few years, perhaps in search of more prosperous trade, then moved back up to Rock Springs, Centre County, not far from Spruce Creek. They were there in 1880, with six children, but moved to Tyrone the next year, about the time that Nancy had their last child.4

Five young women in their best dresses.


Daughters of Anson and Nancy Ann: probably from left to right, Ella, Carrie, Maggie, Mamie, Flossie. 5

Anson and Nancy lived on Bald Eagle Avenue in Tyrone. In 1900 they owned their house outright, with no mortgage. He was still working as a carpenter.  In 1898 he had the index finger of his right hand amputated; was this a woodworking accident?6

Seven of the children were living. Two of the daughters were still at home. Ella was “plain” and did not marry.7 Flossie was the youngest and not yet married. At some point Anson became a laborer in the paper mill.

Three old wood frame houses in a row.

Their house was the second from the corner (in the middle).

Nancy died in July 1906 of tuberculosis. After she died, Anson stayed in the house, with Ella to keep house for him. He died on July 22, 1913 at age 71.8 After this Ella moved to Altoona and worked as a seamstress in a dress shop.9 Anson and Nancy are buried in Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.10

Children of Anson and Nancy:11

Harry Watson, b. 1865, d. 1928, m. 1891 Jessie May Pannebaker, dau. of Moses & Martha. He was an engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad, active in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Tyrone Division. He and Jessie had six children, five sons and a daughter. Jessie survived Harry by many years and died in 1953.12

Ella Irene, “Ella Rea”, b. 1868, d. 1944, wore her hair bobbed, did not marry, kept house for her father until his death, then moved to Altoona and supported herself as a seamstress in a dress shop .13 She sued her brother Harry at some time, for reasons no longer remembered, possibly over an inheritance from their parents.14

Charles Emmett, b. 1871 in Rock Springs, d. 1934 in Juniata County, m. ab. 1896 Minnie Goss, had one son, Ambrose. In 1910 they were living in Juniata Township, Blair County, where Charles was a car builder for the railroad. Ambrose went to college in Philadelphia to study pharmaceuticals, possibly the first child in the LaPorte family to go to college. Charles and Minnie lived in Altoona through 1930.15 In 1931 Minnie died. Charles went to live with his son Ambrose and wife Mildred in West Mont, Cambria County, where he died on May 17, 1934.16 He was clean-shaven and good-looking.17 He and Minnie are buried at Grandview Cemetery in Tyrone.

Caroline Carlton, “Carrie”, b. 1872, d. 1955, married David Mingle.  Caroline, known as Carrie, was very much a lady.18 She married David Mingle in 1895 and had sons David Blair, known as Blair, and Chester. In 1900 they were living in Tyrone, where David kept a general store with his brother. They sold groceries and dry goods on Pennsylvania Avenue, just below Eleventh Street.19 By 1930 Caroline and David moved out of town into Snyder Township, where David was working as a real estate broker. Blair was killed in a plane accident in 1919, while he was serving as a “naval flier”. David died in 1943 of a heart attack while driving his car near the paper mill in Tyrone.20 On July 2, 1949 Caroline was admitted to a nursing home in Altoona.21 She died in February 1955 in Vermilion, Ohio, probably in Chester’s home, but was buried in Tyrone.22

Sarah Margaret, “Maggie”, b. May 18, 1875 in Orbisonia, Huntingdon County, d. January 27, 1948, m. Frank Gardner on December 25, 1894.23 They lived at first in Snyder Township, Blair County, and started their family there. By 1910 they had moved into Tyrone and had three more children. In 1930 they were still on West 15th Street in Tyrone, where Frank was a manager for a planing mill. Most of their children had moved out. Frank died in January 1937. The contents of his estate, a meat cooler, slicer, cases, and more, suggest that he was running a butcher shop by then. Maggie died in 1948. She and Frank are buried at Grandview Cemetery.

Mary Ann,“Mamie”, b. 1878, m. Frank McIntyre of Pittsburgh. They were married on January 16, 1900 in Pittsburgh.24 He worked at first as a brakeman for the railroad. In 1900 they were in the lodging house of the widow Elizabeth Rush on Arch Street in Allegheny City. Ten years later they were still in Allegheny County. They In 1930 they were still there, with a daughter Nancy, age 16. Frank was a superintendent in a telephone company.25 No records have yet been found for them in the 1940 census or the PA death certificates.

Emma Florence, “Flossie”, b. 1881, d. 1966, m. David B. Shimer. She was the youngest of the children, and the one who moved farthest away from Tyrone. She married David Shimer on June 24, 1903, and they moved to Wilwaukee, where he was a foreman in a sheet metal plant. In 1930 they were living in Cleveland, Ohio, where David was still in the sheet metal business. She died in 1966 in Elyria, Ohio. David died in 1971. They are buried at Maple Grove Cemetery.26

  1. Is there any family in central Pennsylvania that does not have this story as part of its lore? Could she have confused Carnegie with George Anshutz, who operated an iron forge and later moved to Pittsburgh?
  2. 1890 veteran’s schedule for Blair County, on Ancestry.
  3. 1870 census, Franklin Township, image 19.
  4. The 1880 census and her obituary, which listed them as living in Rock Springs for a time.
  5. The picture is from cousin Richard Gardner. Maggie was his grandmother. Nettie Goss Bashore, daughter of their brother Charles, remembered them as “beautiful”. Ada LaPorte thought they were good looking, except for Ella. 
  6. Tyrone Daily Herald, Dec. 13, 1898, on Ancestry.
  7. According to Ada LaPorte. In the picture of the five daughters she is slightly less pretty than the others. Nettie Bashore said that all of the daughters were fast talkers.
  8. His death certificate: Anson Parson La Porte, widowed, born Feb. 12, 1842, laborer, paper mill, father, John LaPorte, mother Mary Jones, died July 22, 1913, from convulsions, apoplexy, nephritis, buried in Tyrone, July 24, 1913, died in Tyrone, information from Miss Ella Rea La Porte.
  9. 1920 census.
  10. LaPorte stones in the Tyrone cemetery. Anson P. LaPorte, 1842-1913. His wife Nancy A. LaPorte 1843-1906.  Veteran 61-65.
  11. From his veteran’s papers, with Ada’s recollections added. Some information is from Nettie Goss, sister of Minnie Goss, in a letter to her great-nephew Charles LaPorte.
  12. I remember her. In old age she was living with her son Karl and his wife Katie in Tyrone.
  13. 1920 census.
  14. Recollection of her niece Ada LaPorte Long.
  15. 1930 census, listed and indexed as Laport.
  16. Death certificate for Charles. 1940 census for Ambrose, indexed as LaPart.
  17. His picture on an Ancestry tree.
  18. Recollections of Ada LaPorte Long. 
  19. 1900 census, recollections of Nettie Goss, Tyrone of Today, online.
  20. His obit in the Huntingdon Daily News, Jan 21, 1943.
  21. Tyrone Daily Herald, July 2, 1949.
  22. Altoona Mirror obituary index, online. I have no records for Chester after the 1940 census. 
  23. Her obituary in the Huntingdon Daily News, Jan. 28, 1948.
  24. Tyrone Daily Herald, Jan. 18, 1900. 
  25. 1930 census. I cannot find them in the 1920 census. Nancy is the only known child in her generation named for the grandparents Anson and Nancy LaPorte.
  26. Ohio Obituary Index, on Ancestry, citing the Vermilion Photojournal newspaper of March 31, 1966; also Findagrave.

The trial of Jack LaPorte for the bloody murder of his friend Irvin

It was a moonlit night, a Thursday in May in Huntingdon County. John Burket was a music teacher. He had been teaching the band at the Cross Roads near Warrior’s Mark.1 He was walking home when he saw a dead man lying by the road near Thompson’s Lane. He called to a few men who were sitting on a fence nearby, “Boys, come here. There’s a man with his throat cut.” The man’s throat was cut from ear to ear and his head was bruised and cut. A bloody stone was found nearby. It was May 28, 1885.2

When the body was identified as that of John Irvin, suspicion immediately fell on Jack LaPorte and Jacob Harpster, who had been seen in Irvin’s company that night. Irvin and LaPorte worked together at Shoenberger’s mines near Warriors Mark. Irwin was a fireman on a boiler and LaPorte fired an engine. On Thursday they spent the day drinking at Chamberlain’s hotel with a few friends. By evening the proprietor noticed they were drunk, refused to sell them any more liquor, and tried to send them home. Three of them left, leaving Irvin and LaPorte together. They stood outside the hotel for a while and threw stones at it, without doing any damage, then started down the road where they encountered Harpster. They stopped by a tinner’s shop, where the tinner accused Harpster of stealing some rivets and threatened to call an officer. They ran away, but Irvin and LaPorte insisted on going back to finish the business with the tinner. Harpster left them and that was the last he saw of Irwin.

The next morning a warrant was issued for LaPorte’s arrest. The officers could not find him in Warriors Mark or at his father’s house in Franklinville. After dinner he turned up at the house of his brother Hunter, who was living on the family homestead near Franklinville. His father met him there and told his son that as an officer of the law he was duty-bound to deliver him to the Sheriff. So he harnessed the horse and drove to Spruce Creek to take the first train to Huntingdon, then to the jail. (The New York Times was impressed with this and called it a “heroic action” by a judge who put his duty above his loyalty to his son.)

The local paper reported that Jack was born in Spruce Creek Valley, about two miles from Warrior’s Mark. He had been employed as a clerk in Tyrone for several years, but was discharged due to his intemperate habits and for showing “traits of insanity”. It was said that his mind would wander and that he was a queer character. In his cell he passed the time reading and thinking, sleeping with a light on, and refused to be interviewed. Irvin was a sturdy, strongly-built man, known as a drinking man and quarrelsome. He was the sole support of his widowed mother, which generated some sympathy with the local people.

The trial started in mid-September and was reported as far away as New York, where the Times covered it as a sensation. More detailed reports came from the Huntingdon Globe, the local paper.

Wednesday, September 16, 1885: The trial was set to begin. Judge John LaPorte sat with his fellow judges for the preliminaries of bringing in the grand jury indictment, but he left the bench before his son was brought in by George Garrettson, Deputy High Sheriff of Huntingdon County.3

Thursday, September 17: The trial began by choosing a jury of twelve men, from all around the county. The defendant, Jack, was described as handsome, about 5 feet 10 inches, with jet black hair and moustache and a full face. The prosecutor was Mr. Orlady; there was a team of three defense attorneys. (The family spared no expense for the defense, both for the lawyers and for the expert witnesses.)

John Burket described finding the body. A barlow knife was later found about 100 feet away in a meadow. Upon analysis by a professor of chemistry at State College, traces of blood were found on the knife.

Thursday, September 24: William Weaver was called to testify, and his testimony seemed quite damaging to the defendant. Weaver had been working on the road on the evening of the murder. He saw LaPorte, Irvin and Harpster about 6:00. LaPorte said to Irvin, “Let’s have a drink.” Irvin pulled out a bottle and Weaver and Harpster each had a swig of whiskey. LaPorte vomited. They all sang “We’ll go and see Dolly tonight.” They walked off down the road together till they reached the lane where Weaver turned off.  Harpster headed home. Weaver looked back and saw LaPorte going toward Warriors Mark and Irvin getting a ride on a wagon toward Huntingdon Forge. Around 9:00 Weaver heard voices out on the road. One said, “By —- I’ll brain you.” Then, “Oh! no Jack, you won’t do that,” followed by “Yes, by God.” It was not long after that when another man came by in a buggy and cried, “Come down, come down; come for Jesus sake!” It was Robert Henderson who was calling Weaver to come and see the body.

Harpster testified to the same story. He and Irvin and LaPorte left Warriors Mark and headed toward Thompson’s Lane, where they met Weaver and another. They drank a little whiskey together, then Harpster headed toward the toll gate. Irvin passed him riding on a wagon, which Harpster tried to climb onto as well. When he got to the gate house, Jim Irvin was there sitting on a stone. They walked together for a bit but then LaPorte caught up to them and he and Irvin went off together in the other direction toward Warriors Mark, while he himself went to Richardson’s shanty to spend the night.

James Gillam saw LaPorte three or four times that evening. He bought a few cigars, asked to borrow a dollar, and got fifty cents from Gillam. The last time he came in was about 8:45, and he was looking for Irvin.

Antis Ellis saw Irvin and LaPorte leaving the hotel around 9:00, angry because Chamberlain wouldn’t give them any more liquor. LaPorte said “I will stone Spangler or kill some other fellow tonight.” When Irvin went up to John Lower and tried to start a fight, LaPorte separated them and said “I’m your superior, sit down.”

Squire John Kinch, the justice of the peace, testified that Judge John brought Jack to him at 4:00 in the afternoon on the 29th. He asked Jack why he killed Irvin, and Jack replied that he didn’t kill him. When Kinch asked Jack whether he had scuffled with Irvin, Jack admitted it. When asked why he didn’t come home that night, Jack claimed that he didn’t want his mother to see him because he had been drinking and was sick. There was testimony from several witnesses to the effect that the knife which was found in the field was not LaPorte’s knife.

Finally the defense opened its case. Mr. Speer outlined the case. First they would show that the defendant was insane, with hereditary insanity running in both sides of his family. His mother’s mother, his father’s mother, his father’s sister, his brother, and Jack himself—all would be shown to suffer from various signs of insanity.  Further the defense would show that when Jack was sober he was a model companion, but that excessive drink destroyed his moral and mental attributes.

Samuel Jones Esq. of Tyrone was the first witness called. As the brother of  Jack’s mother, he testified that his mother had become deranged around 1813, according to family tradition, and that he remembered her periodic attacks of insanity from 1826 on, lasting a year or so, followed by periods of lucidity. From 1866 to 1872, when she died, she was “radically insane.” Samuel’s sister Nancy became insane at the age of 38, which lasted two years. She was afflicted at various times throughout her life and died in the asylum at Harrisburg in 1872.

Friday, September 25: Judge LaPorte was sworn. He stated that his son Lemuel had died in the insane asylum in 1875 at the age of 35. Lemuel strongly resembled Jack. The judge first noticed mental unsoundness in Jack two years before. He was taciturn and reserved, and “would often start in one direction and then retrace his steps as if undecided where he wished to go.” When he first saw Jack on the day after the murder, Jack seemed wild and frightened. His clothes were wet. After he changed out of the wet clothes, they walked to Squire Kinch’s house to whom he said, “I have brought this man to put him into your custody, and we waive a hearing.” The judge denied that Kinch asked Jack why he killed Irvin or that Jack had admitted to a scuffle.

At some point that afternoon Jack said to his father, “If I had six grains of arsenic, I would relieve you of this trouble.” It was the only time he had ever heard Jack talk of suicide.

Mary LaPorte, Jack’s mother, testified that she helped Jack change his clothes that morning and noticed a lump on his forehead and a cut on his lip. Jack’s sister, Mrs. C. B. McWilliams, testified that she and her husband heard of the murder on Friday and drove to the judge’s house that afternoon in time to see Jack go up and change his clothes. Her husband asked Jack, “What got over you last night?”, to which Jack replied, “I don’t know.”

Before he went home that afternoon, Jack stopped at Hunter and Elizabeth’s house about 2:00 and asked for something to eat. He apparently also took off a bloody shirt and left it there. She testified that she gave it to the authorities without cleaning it and that she knew nothing of any shirt being burned at her house that day. Hunter stated that Jack admitted to having a “drunk and racket” with Irvin the night before. Jack felt sick and lay down for a while in the hay outside. Then he came back inside and complained, “Hunt, this is a devil of an affair.” When they told him that the authorities were looking for him, he said he didn’t know anything about it. Mrs. Sarah Myers of Tyrone, sister of Mary Ann, corroborated the story of insanity in the Jones family. Mrs. John Ingram testified to the mental condition of the defendant’s grandmother and aunt.

A parade of witnesses tried to establish insanity in Jack’s behavior. C. J. Kegel of Tyrone, who had hired Jack as a clerk, had fired him because of mental instability. In particular he told a story that Jack had ran into the store and asked to be released because he had just agreed to leave at once for Australia with a man he had met. John Wigton of Franklinville reported that Jack liked to wear his working clothes on Sunday and his best suit on Monday, among other peculiarities. James Morrow of Tyrone reported that once he and Anson Laporte took Jack back to Anson’s room at the Eagle Hotel in Tyrone and that Jack, who was drunk, broke the lock on the door in trying to get out. But the next morning he didn’t remember anything about it. Minnie Waddle and Dr. Piper both testified about occasions when Jack seemed dazed and confused but not drunk. On one of these he said to Minnie, “What is the use in our living? We had both better be dead.”

At the same time the defense tried to show that Jack had a good reputation. W. Fisk Conrad Esq. of Tyrone testified that he had known Jack since he was ten years old and had always considered him a model citizen. James Shultz, manager of the Shoenberger mines, testified that LaPorte had an excellent reputation at the mines, while Irvin was quarrelsome and had been discharged three times for disobeying orders.

After ten hours of summation by the lawyers on both sides, the judge gave his charge to the jury, regarded on both sides as a fair charge. The jury retired, with an injunction from the judge not to leave their room until they had reached a verdict. Not surprisingly, the court house bell rang soon after to indicate that the verdict was reached. “Hundreds rushed pell-mell through the streets and filled the temple of justice. In seven minutes the large room was packed from pit to dome by old and young, and many were unable to gain admission.” The jury filed in and the foreman Mr. J. C. Dunkle returned the verdict of guilty of murder in the second degree, a verdict which was accepted as fair by the people.

October 22, 1885: The sentence.  Judge Furst addressed Jack LaPorte before sentencing. He said that the defense was very competent and that everything possible had been done that could be. The jury had given careful attention to the case. He added that “We are well satisfied that you killed your friend and companion. We think we can trace the crime to your intemperate habit in the use of strong drink…..There was but one person save the eye of the Almighty who saw how this offense was committed; and whether there was any circumstance of provocation or of excuse you yourself know that fact—no other. We have taken into consideration, Mr. LaPorte, your youth and the hereditary taint of insanity that is in your family….There is one person living who will suffer as much—even more than yourself, and that is your aged mother…You are young in life and you should make your resolution here, if you have not already made it, that from this time until the day of your death you will never touch a drop of liquor; because with your habit and temperament the day may come when you will answer for murder in the first degree…The court after comparing differences of opinion, (and I will say here that I have held private consultation with your father and have differed with him), we have arrived at what we believe to be a proper measure of punishment in view of the circumstances of the case.”

Judge Furst then sentenced Jack to six years of “separate and solitary confinement” in the Western Penitentiary.

October 29, 1885: Sheriff McAlevy took Jack to the penitentiary. Jack was “docile”, “kind-hearted”, and did everything he was asked. They sat together in the smoking car of the Pacific Express. No handcuffs were used. “Jack seemed to enjoy the scenery very much.” (He had probably never been to Pittsburgh on the train before.) After arriving in Pittsburgh, the sheriff gave him a splendid dinner at the Seventh Avenue Hotel and then delivered him to the penitentiary where he put on his prison uniform. “The parting between the Sheriff and Jack was very affecting. As they were about to leave each other Jack warmly grasped the hand of the Sheriff and said: ‘Sheriff, good bye, I may never see you again in this world; you have been good and kind to me and I thank you for it. If we should never meet here again, I hope we will meet in that far off better land.’”

  1. There is still a road in Warrior’s Mark called Burket Road, just south of the crossroads.
  2. Huntingdon Globe, microfilm at Juniata College Library, Huntingdon.
  3. Court records, Huntingdon County Courthouse. These records contain only minimal description of each day’s events. They are not a transcript of the testimony. Fortunately the newspaper accounts were detailed.

The children of John and Mary Ann LaPorte

John and Mary Ann LaPorte had ten children, nine sons and one daughter. Eight of them survived infancy. 1

Benjamin Jones, sometimes known as “Jones”, b. Oct 21, 1834, d. April 19, 1915, m. Feb. 1872 Leander Ewing, r. Franklin Township. Benjamin’s wife was from a local Spruce Creek family. In 1880 they were living in Philipsburg, Centre County, with an adopted daughter Annie Ewing, possibly a niece. Jones was a wagon maker, like his father. In 1900 they were still in Philipsburg, and he was a justice of the peace (now called Benjamin instead of Jones). Leander died in 1911. Benjamin died in 1915 in Tyrone.2 They are buried at Upper Spruce Creek Presbyterian Cemetery.

Samuel, b. ab.1836, d. Feb. 19 1863, probably of typhoid fever.3 Enlisted in July 1861 in the 5th Reserves, Company I, a regiment recruited in Huntingdon County. The regiment served in Maryland and Virginia, but Samuel fell ill and was discharged on January 1862, with jaundice and typhoid fever. The family recalled years later that Samuel died two weeks after his return from the army, but it was actually a year later. 4

James Hunter, known as “Hunter”, b. July 7, 1838, d. April 3, 1914, m. 1) Catherine Gates, 2) ab. 1872 Elizabeth Conrad5; she was a cousin of Mary Conrad Watson. Hunter was named for the family who previously owned the LaPorte farm.6 His first wife died in 1869 at age 25 and is buried at Seven Stars Cemetery. After 1872 he married Elizabeth Conrad, daughter of Daniel and Mary Ann, and a cousin of Anson’s wife Nancy. In 1880 Hunter and Elizabeth were working in a general store in Warrior’s Mark. By 1900 they moved to Philipsburg, Centre County where he worked in a brickyard. In 1910 they were in Tyrone where he was a night watchman in a candy factory. He died in 1914 and is buried with Elizabeth at Upper Spruce Creek Presbyterian Cemetery. They had four children who lived to adulthood.7

Lemuel, b. 1840, d. Aug 14, 1875 in Harrisburg. Lemuel served in the 2nd Pa. Cavalry, Company F. He was mustered in September 1864 and discharged in May 1865. The Regiment was involved in small battles in Virginia, and was present at the surrender of Lee at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. After his discharge Lemuel lived in the State Lunatic Hospital in Dauphin County; perhaps he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Since he died in Harrisburg, he probably never left the institution. He was buried in Upper Spruce Creek Presbyterian Cemetery, close to his parents.8

Anson Parson, b. Feb. 12, 1842, d. July 22, 1913, m. Nancy Ann Watson, daughter of  John & Mary Conrad. Along with three of his brothers, Anson enlisted in the Civil War, serving in 1863 and 1865. In between he married Nancy Watson on August 14, 1864. In 1880 they lived in Rock Springs, Centre County, but moved to Tyrone by 1900. He was a carpenter. They had two sons and five daughters who lived to adulthood. Nancy died in 1906 of tuberculosis; Anson died in 1913. They are buried together in the Tyrone cemetery.

Adolphus Montgomery, b. Sept. 16, 1844, d. Jan 12, 1919, m. 1) 1870 Martha “Mattie” Given, m. 2) 1881 Maria “Myla” Porter (1853-1905). Adolphus served in the Civil War and was wounded in the foot at Cold Harbor. In 1874 he shot a hunting companion in the head, mistaking him for a wildcat. 9 He later worked as a life insurance agent, and rose to become superintendent of the Juniata Mining and Manufacturing Company and a pillar of the community.10 With Mattie he had a daughter Martha. He later married Myla Porter, and they raised a nephew Hugh Porter “as a son”.11 They lived in Tyrone, where they are buried in Grandview Cemetery.12

Elmore, b. March 2, 1847, d. August 1848, buried at Graysville

Sarah Margaret, known as “Margaret”, b. April 14, 1849, d. September 20, 1919, m. Cyrus McWilliams. They lived in Altoona where he was a wheel inspector in a railroad shop. After he retired they moved back to Tyrone. Margaret died in 1919, the last survivor of the children of John and Mary Ann.  She and Cyrus had no children. They are buried at Upper Spruce Creek Presbyterian Cemetery in Graysville.13

John Jr, b. 1851, d. 1854, buried at Graysville

John, known as “Jack”, b. April 27, 1856, d. Feb 1, 1907 in Tyrone, did not marry, convicted of murder in 1885, sentenced to six years of solitary confinement in the Western Penitentiary. After his release he boarded with others, including his nephew Charles LaPorte and wife Minnie. According to my grandmother Ada he got drunk and killed his best friend in Warrior’s Mark. He was jailed for this. Before this he had worked at Garman’s jewelry store in Tyrone and had been going with one of the best girls in town. Afterwards he never married. Ada had most of the details right.

{Next post: The murder trial of Jack LaPorte}

  1. Sources: census records, cemetery records (Upper Spruce Creek Presbyterian Cemetery at Graysville), obituaries, Civil War records.
  2. Pennsylvania Dept. of Health death index.
  3. His date of death from Headstones provided for deceased Union Civil War Veterans…, Ancestry.
  4. From the pension application of 1897. “It is alleged by the claimant that the soldier died, as be believes, from the results of an injury to his right foot said to have been incurred while in the service. The examination develops the fact that the injury referred to was received before the soldier enlisted, and it also goes to show that it had nothing whatever to do with causing his death. Nor did he die of the diarrhea, the disability for which he was treated as the records show for a month prior to his discharge. It has been impossible to obtain any medical evidence to show cause of death as the physician who attended him is dead. It was not until the very last of the examination I was able to obtain any evidence that showed with an degree of definiteness what was the cause of the soldier’s death. According to the testimony of the soldier’s brothers he must have died of the typhoid fever or the typhoid pneumonia. Probably the former and as one of them has stated it may have been a complication of diseases for it is shown that he was badly afflicted with the yellow jaundice at the time of his return from the army so badly in fact that several of those I have seen seem to think that was the cause of his death. The soldier only lived two weeks after his return from the army and whether his death was due to typhoid fever or the jaundice I believe the same had its origin in the service and is directly traceable to that and I believe the claim should be allowed. (pension application of 1897, F. F. Dean, Special Examiner)”
  5. His wife Elizabeth died in 1918; notice in the Democratic Watchman, a weekly paper in Bellefonte, Centre County, referenced in John Wion, Deaths in Central Penna.
  6. Reeve, A Historical Sketch of the Spruce Creek Presbyterian Church, 1949. She was not always reliable, but this is plausible.
  7. One of the children was Jessie, born in 1874, who married Frank Mattern and took over the general store of his father, selling dry goods and groceries. It was considered one of the best stores in the area. Frank and Jess kept it open six days a week, and only sold on Sundays for emergencies. “He knew the people and their needs and stocked the shelves with the best quality merchandise… made regular trips to Philadelphia where they purchased the latest merchandise on the market..beautiful yard goods..for dresses.” Nearhoof, Echoes of Warriors Mark, p. 140.
    Another of their children was Elizabeth, born about 1888, who married Arthur O. Hutchinson and wrote in later life that the family was descended from the LaPortes of Azilum.
  8. Headstones provided for deceased Union Civil War Veterans, on Ancestry. 
  9. Juniata Sentinel and Republican, Nov. 11, 1874
  10. He merited a biography in the Biographical Cyclopedia of Blair County, 1892.
  11. Obituary of Adolphus in the Altoona Tribune, January 14, 1919.
  12. My grandmother remembered Martha LaPorte, the daughter, as teaching five different languages at the Birmingham School.
  13. Her obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald, on September 20, 1919.

John LaPorte the judge

The road along Spruce Creek in 1873

John LaPorte overcame the early death of his father, rose to become a respected citizen and a court judge, but died almost blind and impoverished. He had a large family, nine sons and a daughter, with his wife Mary Ann, but the sons brought much grief to the family. Two died in infancy, one died from disease worsened by the Civil War, one went insane, and one was convicted of murder and sent to prison. The murder trial probably hastened the death of Mary Ann, as her obituary hinted. In the end John and Mary Ann were buried at Graysville Presbyterian cemetery, along with almost all of their children.

John was born in 1811 in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, the oldest son of Samuel and Nancy LaPorte. His father died when John was about twelve, leaving the family destitute. John left Lycoming County and moved to Warrior’s Mark, Huntingdon County, where he learned to be a wagon maker.1 On November 29, 1832 he married Mary Ann Jones.2 She also had lost her father when she was twelve, and was living with an aunt and uncle. John and Mary Ann settled down in Franklin Township, on the road that runs through Spruce Creek Valley. When they first appear in the census, in 1840, they already had four young sons.

From then on John and Mary Ann lived in Spruce Creek and raised their family.  A map of  Franklin Township, Huntingdon County, in 1873 shows the road along Spruce Creek, past the houses of John Ingram, John LaPorte, and Samuel Wigton.3

John worked as a farmer and wagon maker. His opinion was repected. When the county held its annual Exhibition of the Agricultural Society, he was on the committee that judged agricultural implements like plows and cultivators.4

The children came reliably every two years. John and Mary Ann followed tradition in naming them. Samuel was named for John’s father, and Benjamin Jones was named for Mary Ann’s father. Sarah was named for Mary Ann’s mother. From the census records we can tell that the sons went to school until they were about 14. After that they worked as wagon makers or farm laborers, following the trades of their father.5

By 1860 Mary had borne her last child, and the Civil War was about to begin. Four of the sons served in the war. Samuel was the most affected. He may have had typhoid fever before he enlisted, but whatever it was, the war made it worse. John remembered going to visit Samuel in the hospital, possibly in Washington, to try to get him discharged. Samuel was eventually discharged on account of illness, came home and died soon after. Lemuel was placed in a “lunatic home” in Harrisburg after the war, and died there. Anson served without any apparent ill effects. Adolphus was wounded in the foot.

In 1870 John and Mary were still in Franklin Township, with three of their children: James H., Sarah and John, plus Mattie, age 24. Who was Mattie? Was this the wife of Adolphus, temporarily living with her in-laws, or an otherwise-unknown daughter?

John was active in Republican party circles, and in 1880 he was elected as a judge for Huntingdon County in 1880; by 1883 he was the senior associate judge. A newspaper in 1884 referred to him as “ our old Republican friend, Judge LaPorte”. By then he was retired from farming, still living in Franklin Township, with Mary Ann, and Jack, the youngest son, who was working on the farm.6

On May 28, 1885, disaster struck the family. Jack was drinking with friends, became drunk, fell into an argument with one of them, and cut his friend’s throat. The next morning he appeared at his brother Hunter’s house. John met him there and told Jack that as an officer of the law he was duty-bound to deliver him to the Sheriff. So he harnessed a horse and drove to Spruce Creek to take the first train to Huntingdon, then to the jail. (The New York Times was impressed with this and called it a “heroic action” by a judge, who put his duty above his loyalty to his son.) John and Mary Ann hired a defense team on his behalf, which may have drained their finances. The trial began on September 16.  John sat with his fellow judges for the preliminaries of bringing in the grand jury indictment, but he left the bench before his son was brought in by the sheriff, and sat with the defense team.7 The trial continued for several weeks, the sensation of the county. The defense argued that Jack was insane, with hereditary insanity running in both sides of his family. His mother’s mother (Sarah Waters Jones), his father’s mother (Nancy Norville), his father’s sister (which one?), his brother (Lemuel), and Jack himself—all would be shown to suffer from various signs of insanity. The testimony at the trial suggested a close-knit family. Jack was convicted and sentenced in October to six years of solitary confinement in the Western Penitentiary. He survived the sentence and returned home to Tyrone, but he probably never saw his mother again.

Mary Ann died in July 1887, of “nervous prostration”.8 Her obituary in the Tyrone Daily Herald called her a “kind and affectionate mother”, adding that “She never fully recovered from the shock and nervous prostration produced by the trial and conviction of her youngest son some two years ago”.

By 1897 John was almost blind, from cataracts in both eyes. He applied for a pension, on the strength of Samuel’s service in the War. “Since the death of my wife I have no family. I have lived with strangers and non-relatives. Some of my sons have contributed voluntary to the payment of my boarding. I am deprived of things necessary for my comfort and demanded by my infirmities. This is none of my sons own real estate and could not be forced to maintain me except so far as they choose to do it and that is uncertain.”9 He may have exaggerated in order to get the pension; one would like to hope that his sons did support him. He went on to say, “I am entirely penniless and appeal to the generosity of my county.”

The examiner, F. F. Dean, summarized, “The claimant in this case is an old man and he is getting very feeble. His mind is not just what it ought to be although in talking with him any one would think he was very strong in that respect. He has made some errors as to dates but he can be excused for that on account of his old age and failing memory. The man is nearly blind so near in that he cannot recognize his friends or acquaintances while shaking hands with them unless he can hear their voice. He is an object of charity and entirely dependent upon others for support. In his day he has been a man of considerable means but according to reports one of his sons robbed him of all that he had and he is now left with nothing. Rather than leave the little village where he has always made his home and go and live with some of his children he prefers to board with his old friends and I judge it is they mostly who take care of him. At one time he was Associate Judge of Huntingdon County and has always been a respected citizen thereof. This claimant sent six sons into the Union Army, two of whom died soon after the war, one in the Insane Asylum and one on whose account he is now claiming a pension.”

Note that John actually sent four sons into the army, not six. It is not clear which of his sons “robbed him of all that he had”; could this be a reference to the cost of the defense team for Jack’s murder trial?

John died in on April 10, 1899. According to his obituary in the Democratic Watchman of April 14, he died in his house in Franklinville, survived by five sons and a daughter.10  John and Mary Ann are buried at Graysville Cemetery, along with Jones and Leander, Samuel, Hunter and Elizabeth, Lemuel, Elmore, John Jr, Jack, and Martha Diven LaPorte.11

The tradition was passed down in our family that John was descended from the Laportes of Azilum. My grandmother heard this somewhere and told it to me, although she did not say where she had heard it. She was not the only one who made this connection. John LaPorte lived next door to the family of Samuel and Eliza Wigton. Samuel’s granddaughter Mary was impressed by the romantic story of the French nobles in the wilderness and wrote a story connecting it to her family’s LaPorte neighbor.

“In the old, old Province of Limousin, in the city of Tulle lived a Huguenot family by the name of LaPorte …Barthelency LaPorte was evidently much looked up to in the plans for the trip across the Atlantic…He had a nephew killed by the Indians…This nephew of Barthelency LaPorte had at least two children, that we know of.  John LaPorte was the older one, who wanted to be an attorney, but when his father died there was no money for that education, so he had to learn a trade instead.  He chose ‘Wagon making’. He was strong and rugged and of a typical French build. Charles, the second son, studied law and practiced it in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania all his life. Well, the old letters tell of John being sent to Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to learn his trade. He was only twelve years old. It is disappointing that we really do not know the name of John LaPorte’s father.  All we know is his uncle’s name — Barthelency LaPorte, from Tulle, France.… What a homesick little boy of twelve years, [John] must have been, torn from his mother and home even the language strange to him.12 Mary’s mother knew John as an old man, when he was known as the Judge. He was not living in his house by then, but came back once in a while to visit his neighbors, walking down the road with his cane.  We don’t know whether John was actually related to Bartholomew, but it is a pleasing picture to imagine him stopping by to visit, venerated and admired.

{Next post: the children of John and Mary Ann}

  1. Why did he go so far? There were no known LaPortes there at the time. Was a relative of his mother Nancy living there?
  2. His own statement in his pension application. (Available from National Archives). I have not been able to trace Rev. Daniel Moses on the web; John claimed that he was the minister who married them.
  3. Map online at the USGWArchives. The road today seems to be known as Willow Oak Road.
  4. Huntingdon Globe, Oct. 6, 1869, from the Penn State digital library.
  5. The 1850 census showed John in Franklin Township, age 38, a wagon-maker, with wife Mary, age 37, and some of the children.
  6. John Kinch and his wife Angeline were close neighbors. She would later make a deposition when John applied for a pension.
  7. Court records, Huntingdon County Courthouse.
  8. Deposition of Angeline Kinch for John’s pension application, from his Civil War papers. And the card file of obituaries at the HCHS.
  9. The pension application, from National Archives.
  10. The Democratic Watchman was published in Bellefonte, Centre County. (From the Spangler notebooks in the Centre County Library in Bellefonte.) The Tyrone Daily Herald of April 10, 1899 also had an obituary.
  11. Graysville Cemetery Records at the Huntingdon County Historical Society.
  12. Mary Wigton Reeve, “My Huguenot Neighbor”, manuscript. What is disappointing to us is that she didn’t put in more material from the ‘old family letters’. Why did she assume that he spoke French? She is not reliable in details about the family.

Samuel and Nancy LaPorte

There are stories about Bartholomew LaPorte of Azilum that suggest he had a brother named John, who may have left descendents in Pennsylvania. According to J. W. Ingham, “Bartholomew LaPorte had a brother who was a sailor, and who visited him at Asylum, although there were no railroads or stage lines to bring him from New York.” 1  Louise Welles Murray, who was a great-granddaughter of Bartholomew and who had access to family records (now lost), added, “He was visited at Asylum by his brother John, a sailor, who has been sometimes confounded with him.” 2

Is there any other evidence for John? According to a letter written in 1956 to Murray, the founders of our branch of the LaPorte family were John LaPorte and Nancy Norville. 3 The letter was written by Elizabeth LaPorte Hutchinson, the youngest child of Hunter and Elizabeth LaPorte, and a great-granddaughter of John and Nancy. 4 She was about 68 years old when she wrote the letter. We don’t know whether her parents passed on accurate information to her about her great-grandparents, a level where many people have trouble keeping track.

There were other LaPortes in central Pennsylvania besides Bartholomew. 5 In particular there was a group in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, about 80 miles southwest of Azilum. In 1827 and 1828 Nancy “Layport” petitioned the Orphans Court of Lycoming County on behalf of her two sons, John and Charles, and William Turner was appointed their guardian.6 In 1837 a guardian was similarly appointed for “Lewis M. Layporte”.

If Nancy was the mother of John and Charles, who was their father? The only LaPorte in Lycoming County in the 1810 census was Samuel LaPorte, with two children. In 1820 he was still there, with four children (two sons and two daughters).7 The sons were both under ten; one daughter was under ten; the other was ten to sixteen. Samuel must have been born about 1785. He died before 1830, since he was not shown in the census then.

The evidence is suggestive that Samuel was the husband of Nancy and the father of the three boys. What happened to Nancy after Samuel died? It appears that she married Ellis Martin and had a daughter Mercy. Ellis, born in 1769, was one of four Martin brothers who moved from Northumberland County to Jersey Shore. Shown in the 1830 census with a wife and three children, he died about 1837.8 Nancy appears as Mrs. Martin in Jersey Shore in the 1840 with a young daughter. Nancy was probably born around 1783, according to her age in the 1850 census, so she would have been about 46 when Mercy was born, on the high end but not impossible. By 1850 Mercy was married to Christopher Nolty and Nancy Martin, age 67, was living with them. She was listed as insane then and again in the 1860 census, still living with them. The insanity of Nancy Martin is evidence in favor of her being the mother of John LaPorte of Huntingdon County, since there was later court testimony that his mother was insane.9 They were four households away from Isaac Britton and his wife Mary Ann, who was probably another daughter of Nancy’s. Nancy probably died between 1860 and 1870.10

From the available evidence we can suggest a pair of parents and group of children. Nancy is linked to her sons John, Charles and Lewis through the guardianship applications. The death certificate of Lewis listed his father as Samuel, born in France. The obituary of John listed Lewis as his brother, along with two sisters Caroline Nolty and Elizabeth Harliman. Mary Ann’s maiden name was Laporte, as shown on the death certificates of her daughters Eunice and Elizabeth, and Mary Ann named a son Samuel. We know that John, Charles and Lewis were all born in Jersey Shore. The ages and locations are a good fit. These people make a convincing group to be the family of the Samuel Laporte shown in the census of 1810 and 1820. We must assume that the name of her great-grandfather was passed on incorrectly to Elizabeth LaPorte Hutchinson. Was Samuel a nephew of Bartholomew LaPorte? There is no way to tell.

Children of Samuel and Nancy:

There must have also been two children born before 1810. They probably died young.

John, b. November 22, 1811, d. April 10, 1899, m. 1832 Mary Ann Jones, lived in Spruce Creek, Huntingdon County, a wagon-maker and a judge. They named their second son Samuel.

Mary Ann, b. 1814, d. 1901, m. 1840 Isaac Britton, lived in Lycoming County, had children James, Samuel, Eunice, Elizabeth. In 1860 they lived in Porter Township near Jersey Shore. Isaac was listed as a tailor, much poorer than his neighbors. He must have prospered, because in the 1900 census he was listed as a gentleman. Isaac died in 1905; he and Mary Ann are buried at Jersey Shore Cemetery. Note that Mary Ann is not named in John’s 1899 obituary, although she was alive then.

Charles M, b. 1818, d. 1896, m. ab. 1843 a woman named Elizabeth, lived in Lycoming County, left no known surviving children. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, was a town burgess in 1844, bought 400 acres of land in 1845. His two sons died young around 1850.11 He was a veteran of the Civil War, Co. B, 14th Regiment, in 1862. In the 1870 census as a lumberman,  in the same year he built a steam-powered saw mill on Harris’ Run. It operated for a few years then was moved to Upper Pine Bottom Run where timber was more plentiful. It burned down in October 1875.12 He is buried in Jersey Shore.13

Lewis, b. April 1820, d. 1909, m. about 1847 Penina Ammerman, lived in Clearfield County. They had children Laura, Lewis, Helen, Frances (a dau), Rosey, Augustine, Charles. His death certificate listed his father as Samuel, born in France, and his mother as unknown.14 He was a carriage builder, born in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, died in Curwensville, Clearfield County. He was listed as a brother in John’s 1899 obituary. Lewis appears in the census through 1880.15

Elizabeth, b. ab. 1824, m. ab. 1845, Abraham Harleman, lived in Mill Hall, Clinton County. He was a blacksmith. Had two daughters before Abraham died in 1855. In the 1850 census in Bald Eagle Township, Clinton County, living next to an older Abraham Harleman. In 1860 she was just “Mrs. Harleman” with a daughter Emma, age 10. In 1870 she was still in Bald Eagle Township, living alone, age 46. Gone in 1880. In the 1899 obituary of John LaPorte as living in Mill Hall. But the family may have been mistaken, since there is no known record of her after the 1870 census.

Child of Ellis Martin and Nancy Norville:

Caroline [Mercy?], b. Jan 27, 1829, d. 1908 in Porter Twp, Lycoming County, m. Christopher Nolty, r. Jersey Shore, Lycoming County. She married Nolty before 1850, when they were living in Jersey Shore. He was a boat builder. Nancy Martin, age 67, insane, was living with them. In 1860 they were in Porter Township with five children. Nancy, age 75, was still there. They had several children, including a son Ellis. Mercy died in 1908 in Porter Township, a widow. Her parents were listed as Ellis Martin and Nancy Neville. Mercy is probably the “Caroline Nulty” listed in the 1899 obituary of her half-brother John LaPorte; either she used Caroline as a nickname or the family in Huntingdon County got the name wrong.

  1. J.W. Ingham, A short history of Asylum, Pennsylvania, 1916, p. 35.
  2. Murray, Louise Welles.  The story of some French refugees and their ‘Azilum’, 1917 p. 127. She was descended from Bartholomew through his daughter Elizabeth, who married Charles F. Welles in 1843.
  3. Research by Mimi Dittenhafer, personal communication.
  4. Hutchinson was born in Warriors Mark and later lived in Logan Township, Blair County. Her husband was Arthur O. Hutchinson, and the name on the letter was Mrs. A. O. Hutchinson.
  5. A John LaPorte lived in Wyoming Township, Northumberland County from 1785 through 1810, dying there in 1811. He was a weaver. Letters of administration for his estate were granted to his son-in-law Matthew Rhone. John was probably the John LaPorte who married Naomi Day near Morristown, New Jersey in 1764. Mimi Dittenhafer, who has studied the LaPorte family and who is a descendant of Matthew and Naomi, believes that John was related to the other LaPortes discussed here. But there is no evidence connecting him to the family of Lycoming County, or to the family of Bartholomew.
  6. Orphan’s Court Docket, Lycoming County, Book B. Her name was shown as Nancy Leeport. Turner was not a relative; he was an acting justice of the peace and conducted much business. (History of Lycoming County)
  7. 1810 census, Mifflin Township, Image 2, and 1820 census, Image 3 (part of Mifflin township listed on Ancestry under Dunstable.) In addition to the man and woman between 26 and 45 (presumably Samuel and his wife), there was another man over 45.
  8. Egle, Notes and Queries, which series?, p. 238. (from CD)
  9. Testimony at the murder trial of Jack LaPorte in 1885.
  10. An Ancestry tree gives Nancy’s date of death as March 12, 1861 (but it also gives her marriage to Samuel as 1828, which is impossible.)
  11. Census Mortality Schedule, 1850.
  12. Meginnes, History of Lycoming County, online.
  13. The date of birth is from his veteran’s burial card (on Ancestry). Meginnes, History of Lycoming County, has the record of admittance to the bar. It is interesting that both he and John were both jurists. The land grant is from Lycoming County Land Warrantees, vol. 25.
  14. For the death certificate, he is indexed on Ancestry as Laforte, with birthplace Tervey Shore and death place Carversville, Bucks County. The informant was Gus LaPorte (the son Augustine, born about 1861).
  15. In the 1870 census he was listed as Laport. In 1880 it was Laponte. I browsed through the Curwensville census for 1900  (districts 0069 and 094) but could not find him.

Bartholomew LaPorte and the strange story of Azilum

My grandmother Ada told me a story that had been passed down through the family. It went like this. The LaPortes had a fort in Sullivan County, which they built for the king of France, but he was beheaded first. This improbable bit of family lore actually turned out to be true. At least there was such a place as Azilum (or Asylum in the English spelling), though it was more of a town than a fort. It was built as a refuge, although there is no indication that the builders ever actually expected the king or queen to reach it. There was a LaPorte prominently associated with the founding of Azilum, and he left descendents in Pennsylvania.

Asylum was founded in 1793 by a group of French noblemen, seeking an escape from the turmoil in France. They bought a large tract of land on the Susquehanna in present-day Bradford County and laid out a town there. There were grand plans for a market square, four hundred lots, shops and mills. They brought in slaves from Santo Domino, Haiti, and built thirty log houses, plus a larger one called La Grand Maison, intended as a possible home for Marie Antoinette, but actually used for social gatherings.

A small group of émigrés reached Azilum and lived there for a few years. One of them was Antoine Omer Talon. A romantic story has been passed down about his escape to America.

“Talon…one of the most faithful advisers of the king…escaped and fled to the sea coast, Havre-de-Grace or Marseilles, where he lay in hiding for several weeks. At this time he became acquainted with a young Frenchman, Bartholomew LaPorte by name, who had been a prosperous wine merchant at Cadiz, Spain. A decree of the Spanish Government, banishing all French subjects and confiscating their property, had left LaPorte penniless and anxious to make his way to America, as Talon proposed to do. At last, having an opportunity to embark in an English merchantman at Marseilles, LaPorte concealed Talon in a wine cask, carried him on board and stowed the cask in the hold of the vessel, covering it with charcoal. Suspecting that Talon would embark, soldiers searched the vessel, but in vain. On reaching England, Talon engaged passage to American for himself and LaPorte, who was ever afterward his confidential agent and trusted land steward. Talon arrived in Philadelphia early in 1793. He had wealth, and it is said he purchased a large house at once which he threw open to all his exiled countrymen.”  Whether the story of the cask is true or not, it is unlikely that LaPorte was actually a wine merchant. It should be noted that this story was told by Louise Welles Murray, a great-granddaughter of LaPorte. A more plausible version of the story is that Talon met LaPorte in Marseilles in 1790 while waiting for a ship to America and engaged him as his assistant. In any case LaPorte travelled to Pennsylvania, settled there as a servant to Talon, and rose to become a land agent.

As David Craft related in his history of Asylum, Talon became more and more indispensable to Talon in Pennsylvania. “At one of his entertainments at which the Governor had distinguished guests, his butler having imbibed too freely of his master’s wine, spilled the soup upon one at the table. This was not his first, nor his second offence for which he had been sharply reprimanded. Mr. Talon at once sent for LaPorte to come to him and said, ‘Will you be my butler?’ Mr. LaPorte replied by pleading for the forgiveness of the offender; but Mr. Talon stopped him by saying: ‘He cannot hold his position longer; will you take it?’ ‘Yes,’ said LaPorte, and soon rose to places of higher responsibility as he more and more won the confidence of the Governor.”

The town of Asylum was short-lived. It was an unnatural setting for most of the Frenchmen and they were glad to seize the opportunity to leave it. They did not adjust easily to pioneer life, and when Napoleon issued a pardon most of them returned to France. In 1807, as the settlement was dissolving, the Asylum Company gave LaPorte a power of attorney to dispose of the property there. He bought over four hundred acres of the Asylum lands, settled down as a wealthy farmer, and raised his family. By then he had a wife Elizabeth; their only child John was born in 1798. John had a distinguished career, serving as Surveyor General of Pennsylvania, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, and Associate Judge of Bradford County. He married twice and had four children by his two wives. Some of the stories about Bartholomew were passed down from John and his friends. Bartholomew, the emigrant, died in 1836; his son John died in 1862. They were buried in the LaPorte family plot at Asylum, now a forlorn enclosure in the middle of rolling green fields.



Wharton, A. H. In Old Pennsylvania towns. Chap. 14, “A Pa. Retreat for Royalty”

Heverly, History and Geography of Bradford County, 1926

Murray, Louise Welles.  The story of some French refugees and their ‘Azilum’, 1917

Ingham, J. W., A short history of Asylum, Pennsylvania, 1916

David Craft, “A Day at Asylum”, Proc. Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, vol. 8, 1904

Land Warrantees, Bradford County, in PA Archives, vol. 24