NorthFayette-L ArchivesArchiver > NorthFayette > 2001-07 > 0994834057
From: "JEAN WALKER" <>
Subject: This probably makes sense
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 00:47:37 -0600
Response to query posted by:
12 Nov 2000
Roots Web/Gen Forum?
Surnames: Donaldson, McCoy, Greer
Your query struck my eye, as I have recently been preparing information on
Hanover Township for a survey of all historic sites in Washington County,
and was in Hanover a week or two ago. Donaldson was one of only two or three
surnames that have remained in place in Hanover Township since the 1870s.
(Most of the township consists of reclaimed strip mines, some of which are
state gamelands, so there aren't a whole lot of old, handed down family
farms here). A James Donaldson (perhaps a son or grandson of the James you
are looking for) lived along Raccoon Creek just north of Bavington in the
southeastern corner of Hanover Twp. in 1876, as per the township map in
Caldwell's Atlas of Washington County. This particular farm is still listed
under the name Donaldson in the Farm Plat Map Atlas for the county (the maps
sold by 4-H Clubs). In 1876, there were several other Donaldson families
scattered across the township.
There's a good bit on several families of Donaldsons who all appear (at
first glance) to be inter-related, in Crumrine's History of Washington
County, which you can read on line at "digital.library.pitt.edu" (click on
"Full Text Collection" and then do a search). Crumrine's says they first
settled in Robinson Twp. (also sometimes spelled Robeson Twp.) just across
Raccoon Creek. And in fact, in the Caldwell's Atlas map of Robinson and the
business directory of the same twp., they appear to be the most numerous
family in this sparsely-settled area.
There are many references to Donaldsons in Crumrine's in several different
twps., & there appears to be a thread of information connecting most of
them. Some of them mention association with United Presbyterian Churches.
I don't know if you know much about Presbyterian history, but this may be a
helpful clue: the church that was called United Presbyterian in the 19th
century is not the same as the modern mainline denomination. The old U.P.
Church was an effort to merge the two most conservative, dissenting branches
of 18th century Presbyterianism. The larger of the two groups (at least in
Washington County) was the "Associate Presbytery" (or "Seceders"). They were
called Seceders because the Presbytery was formed when a group of ministers,
unhappy with state interference in church affairs in Scotland seceded from
the church of state and formed their own stand-out denomination. In 1858 (I
believe in Pittsburgh) a national convention was held of both the Seceders
and the smaller, even more conservative group known as the "Covenanters" (or
Reformed Presbyterians). The Covenanter split had occurred in Scotland
earlier than the Seceder split, and as a result, I believe (partly on
hypothesis and hunch) that most of the Covenanters came here from Northern
Ireland while the Seceders tended to be a denomination of recent immigrants
coming directly to Pennsylvania from Scotland. The merger formed the United
Presbyterian Church in 1858, though it reflects the old joke "our town used
to have two churches, but then they merged, and now we have three." So you
will find Seceders and Covenanters continuing in their old form side-by-side
with the U.P. Church as well as the mainline Presbyterians and others, at
least into the twentieth century. In fact, a similar effort at blending the
Presbyterians of this county occurred earlier in the 19th century in
northwestern Washington County, through very different circumstances, not
far from where the Donaldsons lived, when a Seceder pastor was censured for
serving communion to non-Seceder Presbyterians, in this sparsely-settled,
frontier area. The pastor (Rev. Thomas Campbell, and his son Rev. Alexander
Campbell) took the congregation and switched to Baptist. After a few years,
finding themselves also at odds with the Baptists, they decided to say they
were just "Christians." This event, along with numerous other interwoven
episodes, led to the creation of the Disciples of Christ denomination
(usually known in each town as the "First Christian Church") and to the
Churches of Christ. The point here, though, is that northwestern Washington
County, at the time, was made up almost entirely of Presbyterians of
Scottish and/or Scotch-Irish descent, who found themselves divided
increasingly into small, fractionalized groups. And that information may
help you piece the Donaldsons back together, since Crumrine's connects them
in more than one place to a particular sub-group that I think was more
purely "Scottish" and certainly more conservative than most.
The Cecil County, Maryland connection may also be a significant clue to keep
in context. A large enough group of early settlers in Washington County came
from Cecil County that the township east of Robinson was named "Cecil" in
honor of these settlers. However, the Cecil County people scattered all over
the county in areas that became culturally heterogeneous, unlike the
settlers from some other areas who formed concentrated enclaves in southern
and eastern Washington County. Read what Crumrine has to say about judge
Henry Taylor. He uses the case of this important early settler as an
illustration as he describes a variety of scenarios about early settlement
here. Taylor's story, therefore, is scattered across a number of important
pages in Crumrine's with important explanations that you might not find
while tracing other family names in isolation.
Let me know if this is helpful. I am an architect who works mainly in
historic preservation. I've been trying to piece back together the cultural
geography patterns of the county to trace how these patterns affected
architectural trends here.
I would be particularly interested in knowing if and when you might make
contact with the present day Donaldsons, about whether they are interested
in local history and preservation or not. They have a very typical five-bay
frame house (that is, five windows wide--center hall flanked with a room on
each side), but I only got a glimpse of the other farm buildings which look
like they could be a noteworthy historic farmstead.
Terry A. Necciai
Visit the Pittsburgh Full Search Web site. The History of Jefferson College
has been "scanned in" and is very interesting. There are biosketches on
several of the Rev.-Presidents.
Rev. Samuel Ralston was interesting. He was a revivalist and heavy censored
by the Seceders. It also goes on to tell about the 3 day debate between
Rev. Alexander Campbell and Rev. John Walker (Seceder). This is most likely
the Rev. John Walker (is said to have been an M.D. also) who started
Franklin College in Ohio, the "oldest organized college in Ohio".
The History ofCo D, 140 PVI has also been scanned in. Gary and Betty Morrow
have done an outstanding job of transcribing this booklet. I visited to see
the pictures that I hadn't seen.
|This probably makes sense by "JEAN WALKER" <>|