Have you ever found a shocking discovery while working on your family history? I have found a few with it literally being a shock when I discovered a distant cousin was electrocuted by the State of Ohio (see my tale of Ralph Reed here). I found out via DNA that the man listed on my grandmother’s birth certificate was not her dad (see that discovery here).
But I will never forget standing in the Bedford County Historical Society trying to obtain more information on my fifth-great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, who I discovered previously was at the Battle of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, only to learn he was an antagonist of the Whiskey Rebellion and a reason President George Washington went to Bedford County, Pennsylvania to settle things within our very young country.
Protests began immediately as the new tax was unfair to small producers. Where the larger distilleries paid a yearly tax at 6 cents per gallon, with even more tax breaks the more whiskey was produced, the smaller distillers paid 9 cents per gallon and had to pay with cash.
Initial protests were refusals to pay the tax, but then they began intimidating officials and violence broke out. For example, 11 September 1791 Robert Johnson from the excise office, went to collect the tax, he was surrounded by 11 men dressed as women where they stripped him naked, tar and feathered him, and stole his horse, leaving him alone in the forest. Mr. Johnson recognized 2 of the men and warrants were issued for their arrest. When John Connor went to take the arrest warrants to them, the same thing happened to him. They resigned after that.
In 1792 Washington tried to resolve things peacefully, but by 1794 actions began to get out of hand when a fire was set to the home of the regional tax collector, John Neville. President George Washington organized a militia and headed to western Pennsylvania. By the time he arrived the rebels had “dispursed” with 2 being found guilty of treason (they were both later pardoned by Washington).
My fifth-great-grandfather on my paternal grandmother’s side witnessed Cornwallis surrender his sword to George Washington at Yorktown. So that he was one of the many men refusing to pay the tax blew my mind. He paid his fine (to my relief) but it had me rather unsettled that my relative was one of the reasons my hero had to go to Bedford County.
I am not sure if Peter Morgart was a distiller himself but he did build the Morgart Tavern in the late 1700s. I’m sure being the owner of a tavern brought about it’s own sort of related payments to the whiskey tax.
The Tavern went on to be owned by my fourth-great-grandfather, Baltzer Morgart.
For this week’s theme for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the topic is “cousin bait”. Where I sometimes look ahead and in my mind begin processing what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week, this week I was a bit hesitant as I wanted to make sure what she meant by “cousin bait”. I know it’s meeting cousins essentially, and for all intents and purposes what I wrote about on my DNA week would work for this week too. In that post I wrote about the cousins that I have connected with that are DNA matches. But this week I will discuss 2 cousin’s I’ve met because of my blog.
My Morgart Cousin
It’s been close to two months since I was contacted via Facebook Messenger by Linda. I was surprised as they were doing some research on Peter Morgart and came across my blog. It caught me by surprised, but I suppose it shouldn’t have.
I wrote about Peter Morgart early on as I was so excited to find out my 5th-great-grandfather fought in the American Revolution at the battle of Yorktown and saw Cornwallis surrender to George Washington.
And here I had a fellow Morgart descendent find my post and then contact me!
I was just a little excited. Linda was away on vacation when she contacted me so we haven’t really delved into our families but we got as far as my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart, is the brother of her great-grandmother, Rachel Snell Morgart. There is about a 13.5 year age difference between the two, George being the oldest male, and Rachel being the second-youngest female (there were 10 total children born to their parents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal).
George Washington Morgart
George Washington Morgart was born 20 Aug 1849 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of a farmer, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as he became a farmer, too. When his father died 19 Aug 1870, George inherited his father’s land and the role to take care of the family as he was the oldest son. His brother, James Henry, was also to assist in taking care of the family, but he was just 12 when his father passed.
On 27 June 1872 George married Mary Ann Ritchey. They had at least 5 children that I can confirm, Charles Jackson Morgart, Edward Daniel Morgart, Anna Rebekah Morgart, Stella Mary Morgart, and Altie Pearl Morgart.
He died unexpectedly 5 May 1895 at the age of 45. He was a well-respected citizen and a practical farmer who “died tilling the same soil where he was born”.
Rachel Snell Morgart
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 in Providence Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was the 8th of 10 children born to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal. But unlike George who farmed the land he was raised on, following the steps of his dad, Rachel went west.
In the 1885 Census for North Dakota Territory, at the age of 22 Rachel Morgart is listed as a teacher. In 1895 she married a farmer and minister, Daniel Halfpenny, who was also Canadian. In 1908 he became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States.
Rachel and Daniel went on to have 5 daughters: Dorothy, Ruth, Margaret, Mary Kathryn (Margaret & Mary Kathryn were twins) and Rebecca between 1896-1908.
She passed away 29 September 1937 in Fargo, North Dakota after being in a car accident on 5 September 1937. It notes that the car was driven by her son but I don’t see a son on any of the censuses from 1900 to 1920. Perhaps it was a son-in-law?
My Childers Cousin
I think I spooked this cousin off because he had once done genealogy and found my blog as well. Our common ancestor is Randall Childers who I wrote about on the week that the theme was Multiple. We will keep him anonymous and just call him “He”, but he messaged me about 2 weeks after Linda and I was so excited about the brick wall he mentioned that I sent him my Thrulines of what options were being suggested for where the line stops and I never heard from him again.
Stupid, stupid, Becky.
But I have been a good girl and haven’t emailed him again. I’m here should he want to talk again. He descends from Randall Childers and Sara Fesler’s youngest son, Charles Peter Childers, while I descend from their daughter, Bertha. Bertha is also on the younger end of Randall and Sara’s children being seventh out of 9 children, with Charles being #9.
I am so happy I have met both He and Linda. I look forward to being able to touch base more with Linda to put more pieces of our genealogical puzzle together. I am hopeful I hear back from He at some point. I really need to control my enthusiasm sometimes.
I enjoyed learning what I have about Rachel Morgart Halfpenny and find her so brave to head west to teach. I could never do something so adventurous. I wonder if her reason for moving west is something that has been passed down through her family. Her younger brother, William Baltzer Morgart, also headed west and was buried in Idaho, perhaps he has something to do with it?
As for George, his family fell apart shortly after his death. His daughter, Altie, died 3 months after he did with heart issues, his wife committed suicide 13 years later, and his oldest son did the same 9 years after his mom. Just sad. I don’t think my great-great-grandmother ever got over the loss of her first husband (she re-married Bartley Hughes who owned the farm next door a few years after George passed away) and daughter. I have yet to find anything to figure out why my great-grandfather, Charles Jackson Morgart hanged himself.
My “lucky place” in my world of genealogy is Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Not only is it home to a majority of my dad’s family, but even a branch of my maternal side leads to Bedford County, too.
However, the term “lucky” can also be quite sarcastic as Bedford County is not always the easiest of counties to find the information you are seeking. But this week I am going to try to give a brief history lesson of the county, and give some statistics of Bedford County’s influence on my genealogical world.
A Little History about Bedford County, Pennsylvania
Bedford County started out as a trading post called Raystown after it’s first settler, Robert MacRay, a Scots-Irish immigrant. This began in 1750 and wasn’t the friendliest of places as they often dealt with raids from Indians, and then in 1754 by the French and British during the French & Indian War (or if you are from European descent you would know this as the Seven Years War).
The County ended up getting it’s name from Fort Bedford, built during the French & Indian War it was named in honor of John Russell, the Fourth Duke of Bedford. It was an essential base for the British as they expanded the war westward into the Ohio Country, primarily being used for supplies.
Tall tales with some supported facts claim that Fort Bedford was the first fort to be taken in the early stages of the American Revolution by James Smith. Some evidence states there is truth to this, others feel the fort was simply evacuated in 1766.
By the time George Washington came to Bedford County in 1794 during the Whiskey Rebellion, the fort had already been razed, as this was the general area where his troops stayed.
Mother Bedford and Her Baby Counties
Bedford became the 9th official county of Pennsylvania on 9 March 1771, formed from Cumberland County. It’s population had a boost due to the migration of people westward, and the large county it began as (known as Mother Bedford) slowly made way for new counties: Huntingdon on 20 March 1787, Somerset on 17 April 1795, Cambria on 26 March 1804, Blair on 26 February 1846, and lastly Fulton on 19 April 1850 (some of these new counties were also created with lands from adjacent counties, too).
The Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion, also known as the Whiskey Insurrection, was a tax protest that began in 1791 when the newly formed United States decided to chose alcohol as it’s first domestic product to tax to assist in raising money to pay off the debt the country incurred during the Revolutionary War. The farmers of the western frontier (which at this time was Western Pennsylvania) resisted paying this tax, as many were veterans of the American Revolution.
In 1794 the protest came to a head when General John Neville, who was the tax inspector, home was attacked by over 500 armed men. President George Washington rode to the area with 13,000 militiamen to confront the protestors, but all had left by the time he arrived.
Despite there not being a formal confrontation, 20 men were arrested but were later pardoned. This instance showed that our new government was not a force to be reckoned with. And for the record, my fifth great-grandfather, Peter Morgart, was one of the men who resisted paying the tax, but did pay his fines.
The “whiskey tax” continued to be a difficult tax to collect and was later repealed during the Jefferson administration.
The Bedford Springs Hotel
One of the large and fancy hotels that still stands in Bedford County is the Bedford Springs Hotel. It was built in 1806 near a spring with a high mineral content and was said to have “healing powers” by Native Americans who would come from miles to drink and bathe in the waters.
It soon became a vacation destination for those from the east as their cities were beginning to become polluted due to increase in industrialization. Bedford still offered a country feel.
It became a meeting place of presidents including William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor. During James Buchanan’s presidency it became known as the “Summer White House”, with the first trans-Atlantic cable sent from England to the United States being received at the Bedford Springs Hotel as that is where President Buchanan was at when it came on 12 August 1858.
The Bedford Springs had different medicinal qualities. A “Bedford Cure” was given to guests over their 3-week stay which included the “Magnesium Spring” for tummy ailments, or the “Iron Spring” for healthy bones and iron deficiencies.
The Bedford Springs Hotel is still an operating hotel and is owned by the Omni Hotels & Resorts.
There were 2 coal fields that were in Bedford County. The Broad Top Field was located in the northeastern area of the county. With many of my relatives coming from and living in Broad Top I believe this is the area where many of them worked.
The second field was in the southwestern border, Georges Creek Field.
My Genealogical Statistics
I chose Bedford County because I’ve often told my children as I enter source citations into my Legacy Family Tree that I wish I had a dime for every time I entered Bedford County (well, Pennsylvania in general would have me sitting pretty about now). So I decided to run a report of my family that has the name “Bedford” in their birth or death location.
I have 424 ancestors out of 1,871 that I know had a birth/death location of Bedford County. That is almost 25 percent of my people. Mind you, I have lots of people with “, , Pennsylvania, United States” because I do not fully have proof what county they were born in (but there is a good chance Bedford could be it). And I am sure I have more people still to add (I have collateral people that descend from Peter Morgart that I know will add more people, and others that are in the 4th-great to 5th-great area).
Included in these 424 people, 36 of my direct line ancestors either were born or died in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. One of these includes my 4th-great-grandfather on my maternal side (because having just my dad’s side wasn’t enough, my mom had to get it on Bedford too).
Seeing as I’m on statistics, I opted to run a report of how many of my ancestors were born in Pennsylvania (my mother’s side comes from northern Pennsylvania in Potter County so I knew this would be interesting). The total of my 1,871 people in my program that are born in PA: 1,297.
And this is why I may never get out of Pennsylvania.
That’s okay, it’s a great place to be (even if I wish it had records like Massachusetts – that is where some of the Potter County people came from, others came down from New York).
I did get an abundance of my information from the following locations:
History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania. Chicago, Waterman, Watkins & Co., 1884
Other stuff is just in my head now from all my research over the years (like the tidbit about Peter Morgart – I found it in a book at the Bedford County Historical Society).
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you are into genealogy and want to begin writing about your family, you should check out Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. Each week she gives you a prompt to help encourage you to think out of the box when writing about your people. You can sign up here.
Over the course of 2020 I have been participating in the genealogy writing challenge of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks that Amy Johnson Crow puts on each year. This week’s topic is “My Favorite Discovery” and as I sit here and think about what I can write about, there are so many finds flitting through my brain that bring a smile to my face… my DNA discovery that the man named on my grandmother’s birth certificate was not my grandmother’s father popped into my head, but as I sit here 1 week away from my birthday I know my favorite discovery was just re-brought to my attention in the form of a Facebook memory just last Sunday, February 9, when I discovered 3 years ago that my 5th-great-grandfather was at the Battle of Yorktown and saw Cornwallis surrender to my hero, General George Washington.
You see, I was born on George Washington’s birthday (I know, old news as I mention it from time to time), so after being told this my entire life, one of the first biographies I ever read in school was about George. The more I read, the more I admired George (pardon my familiarity, I like to think he would understand my calling him by his first name). Yes, he is flawed. Like many of those who were responsible for building the foundations of our new country, they made mistakes, compromising things for “the greater good” only to have it come back and haunt them 200+ years later.
But George never had an easy job despite being the only unanimously voted president of the United States. Many wanted him to be a king, but we just overthrew king-rule, he knew that wasn’t what was best for our country. Putting all the precedents in place to create the land we now live in wasn’t easy, but it’s one of the reasons I genuinely feel that George Washington was our greatest president.
But when I learned that my relative witnessed Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown literally gave me chills. That he was related to me through my Grandma Blair (Anna Maria Morgart) was even better, she was the best friend I will probably ever have.
Peter Morgart is my 5th-great-grandfather who was born in 18 April 1758 in New Jersey. His family moved to Virginia and he signed up and ended up being at the battle of Yorktown.
Peter Morgart was my first relative I discovered that fought in the Revolutionary War. I have since found others, Solomon Sparks is another 5th-great-grandfather who fought in both the Revolutionary War and became a Captain in the War of 1812. On my mother’s side I have Ichabod Warner (6th-great-grandfather), David Ryther (7th-great-grandfather), and Joel Chapin (6th-great-grandfather). But Peter will always have that extra special spot because not only was he the first relative I found to fight in the American Revolution, but he saw that wonderful surrender that ended the war.
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
If you want to get better about writing about your ancestors, the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a great opportunity. As you can see from my own headings for this challenge I have not participated in each week as sometimes I can strain the brain trying to find someone to fit a category and it doesn’t always jump out at me. First and foremost this is a fun activity, so don’t overstress if you don’t have something to write about each week. But I do recommend it as practice always helps you share the stories about your relatives.
From July 15-17 my husband and I traveled to Bedford County, Pennsylvania so I could research my family. It was such an honor to know I walked where they walked. It was a great trip that was full of adventure and I’ll be honest, spending one on one time with my husband was a nice treat.
As I recount my trip I just want to add that I suggested to my husband that maybe we should take my car as it would get better gas mileage. I’ll be honest with you, I have a 2013 Chrysler 200. I love my car (the first car I ever purchased was a 1993 Plymouth Sundance, and if my Sundance would have evolved, it would be in the realm of the Chrysler 200). Even my father thought we should take it for the same reason, better gas mileage. But believe me, my front-wheel-drive vehicle could never have conquered the hills of Cambria, Bedford, Huntingdon, Fulton and Somerset counties like my husband’s Ford F-150. As we headed from one cemetery to the next in Cambria county, we went up a hill so steep it was at a 15-degree incline (well, that hill we didn’t have to go up – hubby did it for fun). My car would never have survived either hill. I attempted to take a photo but my phone doesn’t do it justice.
First Stop: South Fork Cemetery
We left Ohio on Monday morning and traveled to Pennsylvania. It only took us about 3 hours and our first stop was South Fork Cemetery in South Fork, Cambria County. Here I found 2 out of 3 of my direct line relatives, and the grave of my Great-Aunt Vada. The person I couldn’t find was Susan Jane Foster Blair, my Great-Great-Grandmother. I was really bummed. I remember seeing her name as a teenager and you know how sometimes you have a relative that just pops out at you? That was Susan Jane Foster for me. We searched all around but were unable to locate her grave. South Fork was probably the largest cemetery we visited, but I am hoping to contact someone who could possibly have a map or layout of the cemetery, as it is one without an office, which explained the lack of information on the internet. (I’ll note here, none of the cemeteries we visited had an office).
Second Stop: Mount Hope Cemetery
Our next stop had us taking the above hills to arrive at Mount Hope Cemetery. This was a much smaller cemetery, and luckily because of websites like Find A Grave someone had already uploaded a photo of my Great-Grandmother’s gravestone so I had some idea what to look for shape-wise.
Below is the headstone belonging to Margaret Wise Custer, though I knew her as Gammy. She is the only one of the relatives I searched for on this day that I had met. I have vague memories of her playing the “mouth organ” in a nursing home. She passed away in 1987 at the age of 96. My Grandma, her daughter, lived to be 94. Good genes.
Third Stop: Hopewell Cemetery
When we looked up Hopewell Cemetery on Google Maps attempting to get something of an address for this location, it looked rather flat. We could see it had sections but never dreamed the slant that the cemetery was created on. It was the next largest cemetery we visited. I didn’t find my Great-Great-Grandparents that were buried here. Since I had no cell service I wasn’t able to consult Find A Grave to see if either of them were listed. Turns out that my Great-Great-Grandfather, Philip Wise did have a photo on the website, but his wife, Barbara Waite Wise, did not.
Hopewell is filled with old graves that are very worn. We tried to look all over in the older section of the cemetery, thinking that is where they may be (Philip passed in 1878 while Barbara passed in 1881).
I did find my Great-Great-Aunt Elizabeth Childers Whitfield’s grave in my search and took a photo of it (she was my Great-Grandmother Bertha Childers older sister). I figured it made the stop somewhat worth it. But looking at the photo – look at how angled the ground is! This was another spot I’m not sure my car could have survived.
Stop Four: Duvall’s Cemetery
Duvall’s Cemetery was built on land that belonged to my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Basil Foster. So this one had a little extra charm for me, I was going to walk on land that I knew belonged to my ancestors. I’m a geek and think that’s thrilling. I think everyone else thinks I’m nuts in these situations (you should see me at Yorktown and Mount Vernon knowing I’ve walked where George may have stepped, it gives me goosebumps).
But Duvall’s Cemetery is also where many of my direct line relatives are buried. I actually found out 2 days after this visit it held one more grave, that of Andrew Jackson Blair, my Great-Great-Grandfather, father of the aforementioned Andrew Jackson Blair, and husband of the aforementioned Susan Jane Foster (yes, as in Basil Foster). I actually looked for Susan here but was unsuccessful.
Here are my relatives buried in Duvall Cemetery: Andrew Jackson Blair (1851), Charles Jackson Morgart (my Great-Grandfather, first husband of Margaret Wise, aka Maggie Custer), Basil Foster, Richard Lewis Foster, Charity Johnstone Foster, Thomas Foster, Eliza Horton Foster – just to name a few. These are my direct line ancestors as on my first trip, I’d have to spend all day in each cemetery to find everyone.
I was unable to find Thomas Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, or his wife, Eliza Horton Foster, my 3rd-Great-Grandmother. There were many worn graves and some that had fallen apart off the screws where the tops were face down into the grass. It was so sad to see so many graves this way. These were someone’s people, and my husband told me straight off that no, he could not lift them alone. He knows me so well.
Stop Five: Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery
As we were driving, on our way to what ended up being our sixth stop, I saw a road and it turned out we were near Wells Valley Methodist Cemetery, where a majority of my Fesler and Childers family members are buried. I was not able to find everyone, but I did find 2 of the 5 that I was looking for – the first being my 3rd-Great-Grandfather, George Henry Fesler who fought in several smaller battles during the Civil War and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Oakman Fesler. My Great-Great-Grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler Childers is reportedly buried there as well, but I was unable to find her. The area where the Fesler’s is an older portion of the cemetery in the back corner under a huge tree. Where George’s has been maintained – his wife and children’s are very worn.
Others we were unable to find were my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Abraham Childers and his wife, Mary Ann Green. This was another spot where Find A Grave would have been helpful as it has one of theirs listed, but again, no service (I’ll know to save the photos ahead of time for future visits).
Stop Six: Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery (aka Rays Hill Cemetery)
When we pulled alongside the road to Mount Zion Lutheran Church and Cemetery, the parking lot was blocked off with metal gates. As we sat in the car we saw huge gravestones saying “Ritchey” which was one of the names I was looking for. We searched for a while and then it hit me – I’d seen the headstones on Find a Grave and began looking for white. Here, if we had just started in the front (translated, not far from where we parked) my Great-Great-Grandparents were in the front row, and my 3rd Great-Grandparents were in the row directly behind them.
Stop Seven: It’s Not a Cemetery, it’s a Tavern
So as we drove along the Lincoln Highway I hoped we would drive by the Morgart Tavern, which was started by my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and then run by my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart. The building was constructed in the 1760’s and the walls are to be 2-feet deep. I was so excited when we found it. We knocked on the door before taking photos but no one was home. It’s when you find the places and even buildings where they lived that tickles me the most, a feeling of they were here.
Stop Eight: Providence Union Church Cemetery
This was our favorite cemetery, primarily because when we arrived we parked the truck, opened the door and there was my 5th-Great-Grandfather’s resting place front and center. He and his wife were our easiest finds of the day. We probably spent 5 minutes here. Captain Solomon Sparks fought in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. His daughter, Mary Sparks, was married to the before-mentioned Baltzer Morgart.
Stop Nine: The Morgart/Morgret Family Cemetery
This was a fun one as it’s literally in the middle of someone’s backyard. I don’t think the family is a Morgart, I would like to think they would have asked more questions about my being related to them (or not, being an uber-introvert my husband knocked on the door and asked if it was okay to go look at the cemetery, they were very nice and told us we could even pull up in the driveway next to the pole barn. I also want to add that seeing as it was mowed to the same height as the rest of the yard, this family took excellent care of the cemetery, you could easily read things, the gravestones we were weed-whacked, just really impressed).
So here I had many relatives buried, my 5th-Great-Grandfather, Peter Morgart, and his wife, Christiana Hess (my 5th-Great-Grandmother), my 4th-Great-Grandfather, Baltzer Morgart and his wife (and my 4th-Great-Grandmother), Mary Sparks, and lastly my 3rd-Great-Grandparents, Andrew Jackson Morgart and his wife, Rebecca O’Neal.
Last Stop: Dudley Methodist Cemetery
Our last stop was to find my Great-Great-Grandparents, Jonas and Anna Maria Leighty Wise. I was so excited to find them as 2 days later I was able to take a photo of a picture that my second cousin Hope had of them that was left after a Wise Family Reunion back in the 1990s. My Grandma Blair (her married last name) also talked so fondly of her “Granny Wise” that finding their graves had a lot of importance. But my husband and I must have looked at every single tombstone in the cemetery and we were unable to find them. I was so disappointed. I had no cell service so I was unable to look them up (it would have done me no good, there are no photos on Find A Grave). They were the parents of my Great-Grandmother, Margaret Wise.
Since returning home I did email the Dudley United Methodist Church on a hope they had a layout of the cemetery but I’ve not heard back from them. I could kick myself as it didn’t occur to me when I was there, but my husband found 9 graves of Wise’s but I didn’t recognize the names. Only later did it register that my Great-Great-Grandmother had a total of 15 children, but only 5 survived. Nine graves he found – I wonder if they are 9 of the 10 she lost.
Wrapping It Up
Since this post is ever-so-long I’ll stop here and do another post for the next 2 days. Cemetery hopping is fun. It gave me an opportunity to be near my ancestors. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. It’s just so fascinating to learn their names and to do my best to learn about them and who they were. Just trying my best for them not to be forgotten.