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Pyatt-McKinney of Ritchie County, WV

Chapter XXX Schools and Teachers
Page 394
Schools and Teachers
John Piatt was the first to "wield the scepter" over the youth within the present boundary of Grant district.

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The scene of this school was on Rush run, near one mile from Cairo, on the Marshall farm.

What a curiosity this "pioneer temple of learning" with its massive stone chimney and huge fireplace; its window made by chopping out a log, and pasting greased paper over the opening'; its seats of split logs, with wooden pins for legs; and its roof held in-tact by weight poles, would be to the boys and girls of to-day, who enjoy the many comforts and conveniences of modern school life!

Mr. Piatt was a native of Pennsylvania, a cousin of Mrs. William McKinney, senior, and during the winter of 1826, while on a visit with the McKinneys, he taught this school.

He went from here to Kentucky, and later to Indiana. He was the father of the distinguished John James Piatt, the poet and journalist, who was born at Milton, Indiana, on March 1, 1835 (eleven years after this school was taught), and who entered the journalistic field early in life, and later served as clerk of the House of Representatives, and of the United States Treasury Department, and who, also, filled the position of consul at Cork, Ireland from 1882 to 1894.

John James Piatt's best known poems are "Poems by Two Friends" with W. D. Howells; "Poems in Sunshine and Firelight," and "Idylls and Lyrics of the Ohio Valley," etc.

He (John James Piatt) married Miss Sarah Morgan Bryan, who was born at Lexington, Kentucky, on August 11, 1836, and who was, also a poet of note. "A Woman's Poems," "A Voyage to the Unfortunate Isles," "Dramatic Persons and Moods," and "An Enchanted castle," being among her best known works. She was, also, the author of the beautiful little poems, "The Gift of Empty Hands," which will be found in, "Famous Poems Explained" by Waitman T. Barbe, in the "Teachers' Reading Circle Library" of this county.

That the son inherited poetic talent from his father, can hardly be doubted, when we here reproduce a little poem that the elder Piatt wrote during his term of school at Cairo (in 1826) in the form of an acrostic on the name of Mary Skelton, who afterwards became Mrs. Jacob McKinney:

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"May health and peace, inestimable gifts, adorn--And aye, attend you through
life's fickle dream; Religion, likewise, though too oft held in scorn, Your
path direct across the sluggish stream."

"say, dost thou wish true happiness to fine? Know happiness is rare in
human kind, Envy or pride, if either find a place, Leaves little room for
virtue to embrace; "Tis virtue, then, which happiness bestows, Oh! claim the
prize, and safe you are from foes; Nor pride nor envy, shall ever dare

The Piatts have a most distinguished and interesting ancestral history--one that dates back to the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France (in 1685).

Among the Huguenot fugitives of the Province of Danplume that sought refuge in Holland from the religious persecution, that immediately followed the Revocation, was a family by the name of Piatt.

John Piatt, the first of whom we have any definite account, was doubtless, a very young child at the time of the flight from France. His parents, however, established their home at Amsterdam, and there John grew to manhood's estate, and married Mrs. Frances Van Flirt Wycoff, a widow of English-Dutch ancestry. And soon after his marriage, with his bride, and his brother, he set sail for the Danish West Indies, where he engaged in business on the Island of S. Thomas, and where he continued to sojourn until after the birth of his eldere children, when he migrated to North America, and settled in the New Jersey colony, at Six Mill run, near the town of New Brunswick, in Middlesex county.

Some years after his settlement in New Jersey, he decided to return to France, for the purpose of making an effort to recover his inheritance which had been confiscated by the Crown, but he was deterred from carrying his plans into effect by the seven years war (1756-'63), and went to St. Thomas, instead, with his son Abraham, to take charge of the sugar plantation of his brother, and there his life ebbed away in 1760; and there the Southern breezes play about his ancient tomb. His wife died at her home in New Jersey on December 26, 1776, and not far from New Brunswick, she rests.

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Their sons were, John, Abraham, William, Daniel, and Jacob Piatt.

These sons were all officers and soldiers of the Continental army during the American Revolution, and William, Daniel, and Jacob were among the original members of the "Society of the Cincinnati"--an organization which was founded by the officers of the Revolution for the purpose of perpetuating friendships, and for the raising of a fund for the benefit of the widows and the orphans of the soldiers of this war.

John Piatt, the eldest son, whom we shall designate as John the II, was evidently born on the Island of St. Thomas, the date of his birth being 1739. In 1763, three years after the death of his father, he was married to Miss Jane Williamson, daughter of William and Jane Van Nest Williamson, who was born in 1745; and at Trenton, New Jersey he founded his home. He served as High Sheriff of Middlesex county, which, in 1838, was sub-divided into four counties; and at the close of the Revolution, in which he played his part as "minute man" in the New Jersey militia, he removed with his family to Milton, on the Susquehanna river, in Northumberland county, Pennsylvania; and later, to White Deer Valley, where he died in 1820, at the age of eighty-one years.

He fell heir to the old Dutch Bible which the family brought from Holland to America, and which bears the date 1710; and when his daughter, Frances, the wife of William McKinney, senior, was leaving Pennsylvania for her new home in Ritchie county, he came out with this old Bible, and said, "Here, Frances, take this with you, as you are the only one that can read it." Mrs. McKinney accepted the proffered treasure, and it is now in the possession of the family of her late grand-daughter, Mrs. Drusilla Wanless.

Besides Frances McKinney, the other children of John Piatt, the II, were, Mrs. Jane Allen, Mrs. Cathrine Fenbrook, William and John Piatt.

Abraham Piatt, the second son of John Piatt, of France, was a Colonel in the Revolution. He was born in 1741, and married Annabella Andrew and settled in Penn's Valley where he died in 1791.

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His children were, Jacob, John, Cathrine, Eleanor, Anna, Abraham, James, Frances, Jane and Margaret.

William Piatt, the third son of John of France, was a Lieutenant at the beginning of the Revolution, but rose to the rank of Captain, and in this capacity served throughout the war. he was born in 1743, and died in 1791, perhaps, in Pennsylvania. He was first married to Miss b>Quick, and one her death, he married Miss Sarah Smith, and they were the parents of James, Frances, who died in youth, Jemima G., who was adopted by a family by the name of Cummings, and Dr. William F., of New York city.

James Piatt, the eldest son of William and Sarah Smith Piatt, married Miss Rachel Bear, and they were the parents of John Piatt,* the pioneer school-teacher of Grant district.

Daniel Piatt, the fourth son of John of France, was Captain of the first Regiment of the New Jersey Brigade, and rose to the rank of Major. He was born in 1745, and married Cathrine Herrad; and their children were, John, Mary, Robert, Frances, William, Daniel, and Margaret.

Jacob Piatt, the fifth and last son of John of France, was born in 1747, and died in 1834. He was, also, a captain in th Continental army, and served in many of of the more important engagements during the Revolution. He married Miss Hannah McCullough, and was the father of Benjamin, John H., Frances, Hannah C., William, and Abram S. Piatt.

NOTE: To Miss Fannie McKinney of Williamstown, we owe our gratitude for this invaluable little poem and the other information concerning the identity of this pioneer educator, with the exception of the career of his son and his (the son's) wife which we gleaned from the pages of an encyclopedia.

And to Mrs. Lulu Hallam Parker of Kansas City, Missouri, we owe our thanks for the Piatt ancestral history.—Author

*Some of the Piatt descendants seems to think that John Piatt, the Ritchie county pedagogue, was the son of William, but dates and other circumstances point to the fact that he must have belonged to a younger generation. However, he was descended from William, and was the father of John James Piatt, the poet-consul.

Go to Chapter 28-30 "History of Ritchie Co, WV" on the US Genweb

From "History of Ritchie County" written by Minnie Kendall Lowther, and published in 1910. Transcribed by Janet Waite. Chapter X "First Settlers in the Cairo Vicinity"
THE MCKINNEYS.-- The Nutters, as above stated, were only squatters at the mouth of Addis' run, and, in 1818, they were dispossessed by William McKinney, who purchaed a tract of three thousand nine hundred twenty acres in this secion, of Mathias Mattenly, for the small sum of eight thousand forty dollars. He afterwards bought another tract of one thousand eighty acres, and after giving each one of his children a large fare, he sold the remainder to a colony of Scotch settlers, who came later.

Mr McKinney came from the "Keystone state", with his wife and large family of children, and founded his home where his late grandson, Jacob McKinney, resided until his death. He figured prominently in the early history of the county, both in church and state affairs; and for a number of years after his coming, this was known as the McKinney settlement, fthe former "Egypt", being gradually dropped.

William McKinney was born of English parentage in Lyconing county, Eastern Pennsylvania, on September 4, 1760. He was the son of William and Hannah McKinney and was next to the youngest member of a family of six children (viz., Sarah, who married a Mr. Haggerty, Jemima, Jacob, John, and Cathrine). Though so young, he served as an American soldier during the latter part of the Revolution; and on July 14, 1789, he was married to Miss Frances Piatt, and from this time until he came to Ritchie county, his home was at White Deer valley, on the Susquehannah river.

Mrs. McKinney was of French descent. She was the daughter of John and Jane Williamson Piatt, and the granddaughter of John Piatt, of France; and at historic old Trenton, she was born, on March 7, 1770, when the bugle notes of the Revolution were being sounded, but her parents later removed to White Deer Valley, Pennsylvania, where she met and married Mr. McKinney.

In 1789, when General Washington was enroute from Mr. Vernon to New York City, for his first inauguration to the Presidency, when he reached the old bridge at Trenton over which he had retreated before Lord Cornwallis' army, a few years before, a beautiful triumphal arch under which he was to pass, greeted his eye. This arch had been prepared by the ladies of the town in honor of the occasion, and was supported by thirteen pillars, wreathed with flowers and evergreen, and it bore the inscription, "The Defender of the Mothers will be the Preserver of the Daughters."

Beneath the arch stood a party of thirteen loyal young ladies, laden with baskets of flowers, and as the hero of the Revolution approached, they showered the flowers in his pathway-singing as they did so,the following ode, which had been composed for the occasion:
Welcome mighty Chief once more,
Welcome to this grateful shore;
Now no mercenary foe Aims again,
the fatal blow, Aims at thee, the fatal blow.
Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Those thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee, triumphal bowers,
Strew ye fair, his way with flowers,
Stew your hero's way with flowers.

Frances Piatt was one of this number, and in the presence of the writer, in later years, she sang this little ode, reviving the feeling of her youth and her loyalty to her Chieftain.

Mrs. McKinney was a woman of strong mind, and of a cheerful, happy disposition, and her husband being ever kind and generous, "the world went well with them." When they first came to this wild country the younger members of the family were very much dissatisfied, and they would say, "Oh, dear, mother, you have brought us to a wilderness!" But with her characteristic cheerfulness, she would reply, "O children, you will see railroads running through your farms, yet, some day." At the absurdity of such a prediction all would break into a laugh, thus dispersing the shadow occasioned by their undesirable surroundings. And though the dear old mother never lived to see it, the prophesy has long since been fulfilled. The Baltimore and Ohio railroad runs through what was at that time the "McKinney estates" for miles, and the busy town of Cairo stands on the farm that once belonged to their daughter, Kathrine McKinney McGregor.

Mr. McKinney was the first mill-owner in this section. He was a Presbyterian in religious faith, and was a man of a strong influential character. He passed to his reward on June 24, 1848, on the first anniversary of the death of his wife. (She died June 24, 1847) Both sleep in the Egypt cemetery. Their children were as follows: William, John Piatt, Jacob, Hannah (Mrs. Joseph Marshall), Jane (Mrs. Edward Skelton), David and Kathrine (Mrs. David McGregor) were twins, Sarah (Mrs. Richard Wanless), and James.

Nearly all these sons and daughters were in turn the heads of pioneer families of this county.

William McKinney, junior, the eldest son of William and Frances Piatt McKinney, was born in Pennsylvania, on May 17, 1790, and there, on January 22, 1818, he was married to Mary Wilson Miller; and, a few months later, with his parents, they came to this county and settled on the farm that is now the estate of the late Jacob Hatfield, senior. After a twelve years' residence here, they went to Harrisville, where Mr. McKinney purchased the Mathias Cline store, and engaged in the mercantile business for eight years before removing to Waverly, in Wood couty, where he died, in 1879, at the age of eighty-nine years. Here Mrs. McKinney died at the age of eighty years. Both rest in the Bethel cemetery, near the old home.

They were the corner stones of the Bethel church at Waverly, the first organization being made at their home, in April, 1845, when Mr. McKinney was ordained as Elder - an office which he filled until his death.

Their family consisted of ten children, all of whom reached the years of maturity except one that died in infancy; viz. Robert Simpson, William Piatt, Frances S. (unmarried), Eliza J. (Mrs. Thomas Miller), Abram F., Hannah M. (Mrs. James Sharps), Festus H., Mary S. (unmarried), and Jacob, all of whom have joined the parents on the other side, save Miss Mary S., who resides at Parkersburg.

Robert Simpson and William Piatt, the two eldest sons, were the victims of a most thrilling experience while the family resided on the "Hatfield farm", they being but five and two years of age, respectively, at the time of the incident:
Their father being absent from home, their mother sent them to drive the young cattle to the forest, and, unconsciously, they wandered too far to find their way back; and when they failed to return home in a reasonable length of time, she became alarmed, and, taking her babe in her arms, went to the home of her father-in-law and made the sad truth known - that her children were lost. All the able-bodied men, with her husband, were at Parkersburg -thirty miles distant, "at muster", but she gathered together what help she could - both men and women - and went in search of the little wanderers. But they being unfamiliar with the forest, could not venture far, and all night long they searched to no avail, and on the following day the father was called home, and he, too, joined in the quest, which was continued throughout the next night all to no purpose; but during the third day, however, they were found near three miles from the home almost perished from hunger and cold - the elder being in a state of unconsciousness. They had been out almost two days and nights without food, with the exception of a few berries that they had found. It was in the month of October, and during the first night, a cold rain had fallen, and the elder brother had taken off his coat and put it on the little one to keep him warm, and their dog helped to keep them from freezing at night. They said that their dog drove a "big black dog" away from them one night, but it was supposed to have been a bear, by the older people. The mother could never speak of the pathetic incident in after years without tears. John Piatt McKinney, the second son of William and Frances Piatt McKinney, was born in the Keystone state, on August 19, 1792; and on July 4, 1826, he was married to Miss Sarah W. Lacy, and near Cairo, they resided until 1836, when they removed to Parkersburg, and took charge of the "United States" hotel - one of the best in the city at that time. Here Mrs. McKinney died, in 1844, at the age of forty-seven years, and two years later their only daughter, Fraces Selina, passed on, at the age of thirteen years. After this sad event, Mr. McKinney, principally made his home with his brother, David; and here, on April 23, 1879, he passed from earth, and in the Odd Fellows cemetery, at Parkersburg, he rests. His three sons were William Hopkins, David P., and Thomas E. McKinney. The last two mentioned reside at Springfield, Ohio, and are unmarried.

Jacob McKinney, the third son of William nad Frances Piatt McKinney, was born on November 16, 1799; and on June 9, 1828, he was married to Miss Mary, daughter of Edward Skelton, senior, and settled just across the river from the old McKinney homestead, where he and his wife saw the last of earth, and in the Egypt cemetery their ashes lie. He died on January 15, 1861.

Their nine children were as follows: Anne Eliza (Mrs. Luke Terry), Cathrine (Mrs. H. B. McCollum), James, Mary M., Sarah, William S., and Frances A. (who all remained unmarried); Jacob B., and John P. McKinney.

Hannah McKinney, the eldest daughter of William and Frances Piatt, was born in the "Keystone State", on March 13, 1795; and there she was married to Joseph Marshall, on September 23, 1816, and from there they went ot Ohio, where they remained for a few years, before coming to this county, and settling on the "Marshall homestead", near one mile south of Cairo. This old pioneer residence, with its massive chimney and huge fire-place, is one of the very few that have escaped the plans of the modern architect, and still stands, undisturbed, in its original state. It is now the property of A. M. Douglass, of Cairo.

The first church organization in the community (Presbyterian) was perfected at the Marshall home, and here, a little band of worshipers gathered regularly until a churchhouse was erected. Mr. Marshall died in 1835, at the home of his brother-in-law, James McKinney, at Williamstown, he having been stricken with the fatal illness while on his way home from a business trip to Cincinnati; and in the "Bukey cemetery" at Williamstown, he rests. His wife died at the old home hear Cairo, in 1874, at the age of eighty years,and she lies in the Egypt cemetery.

They were the parents of eight children - seven sons and one daughter, the late Miss Ellen Marshall, of Cairo, being the daughter. The sons were, William M., Francis J., John P. (who never married), Robert R., of Gilmer county; Jacob W., David H. (died in youth), and Hezekiah B. Marshall, of Buckhannon, who was a resident of Mining Flats, this state, for fifty-four years, and who is the only survivor of the family.

John W. Marshall, formerly of Oil Ridge, but now of Wood county, is a grandson of this pioneer, and he has not a few other descendants in this, and an adjoining counties.

Jane McKinney, the second daughter of William and Frances Piatt McKinney, was born on July 4, 1797, and was married to Edward Skelton, junior, on January 1, 1822, and, removed to Illinois, where all the family are sleeping, except Augustus D., who resides in Kansas City, Missouri.

Their other children, besides the one mentioned, were, John G. (a mute), who married Miss Prudence Chidester, who was, also, a mute; William M., Frances (unmarried); Edward A., and Eliza J., who married George Briggs.

David McKinney, the fourth son of William, and Frances Piatt, and his sister, Kathrine, were twins. They were born, on August 1, 1801; and on December 29, 1831, David was married to Miss Sarah M. Henderson, and settled on the farm, given him by his father, in the Cairo vicinity, where he remained until 1848, when he removed to Harrisville, and after a three years' residence there, went to Willow Island, on the Ohio river, in Pleasants county, where he was identified in the mercantile business for the next three years. He then resided on a farm in Pleasants county for twenty years, going from there to Williamstown, where he fell asleep in 1881, in the eighty-first year of his life. His wife preceded him to the grave by three years, she having reached the age of seventy-one years. Both sleep near the St. John's Episcopal church in Pleasants county.

They were the parents of five daughters and one son, John, who died in infancy. The daughters were: Nancy, who married Oscar L. Ridgely; Miss Frances Piatt McKinney, of Williamstown; Mary J. (unmarried); Hannah M., who became Mrs. Giles R. Hammat; and Sarah C., who married John D. Sharp. Mrs Sharp and Miss Frances alone survive.

Kathrine McKinney, the third daughter of William and Frances Piatt McKinney, who, with her brother, David, first saw the light on August 1, 1801, was married to David McGregor, on March 17, 1842, and settled at Cairo, where she died, on September 11, 1863, and was laid in the Egypt cemetery.

Three children were the fruits of this union; viz., William A., and John P., the sons, both died in infancy, and Frances S., the only daughter, is now Mrs. I. S. Hallam, of Abeline Kansas.

Sarah McKinney, the youngest daughter of William and Frances Piatt McKinney, married Richard Wanless, senior, and was the mother of five children: John, William A., Richard, junior, Frances and Mary Wanless. (For farther history of her family see Wanlesses.)

James McKinney, the youngest son of William and Frances Piatt, was born, on November 26, 1807; and he was married to Miss Suannah Bukey, on January 1, 1832, and the first years of their married life were spent at Williamstown, from whence they removed to Harrisville, where Mr. Mckinney was engaged in the mercantile business, and where he filled the County clerk's office for a number of years. Here Mrs. McKinney died; and on May 18, 1854, he was married a second time to Miss Minerva Stephens, of Harrisville, who still survives. He died on July 26, 1889, and lies at rest, beside the wife of his youth, in the Harrisville cemetery.

The children of his first union were three in number: Drusilla B., who married William A. Wanless; Mary Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Arbour; and Hezekiah McKinney, who lives in the West.

Alma, the late wife of Dr. W. E. Talbott, of Harrisville, was the one child of the second union.


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