Beers: Wise p. 256

The Wise Family, p. 256

THE WISE FAMILY. This family, which settled at an early day in the southeastern part of what is now Washington county, Penn., were of German extraction. Adam Wise and his wife, the progenitors, were natives of Rhenish Hesse, a province of Hesse Darmstadt, and lived near the river Rhine, where his ancestors carried on the business of milling and distillation of wine. He and his wife, excited no doubt by the wonderful reports which were spread far and wide of the opportunities afforded the emigrant for bettering his condition of life in the New World, set sail with their first born child (Andrew, born May 7, 1748) from Rotterdam, in the ship "Hampshire," Thomas Cheeseman, captain, and touching last at Falmouth, England, landed at Baltimore, Md., in July, 1748, the vessel after some delay proceeding to Philadelphia, where it arrived September 7 following. Adam Wise and family first settled on Pipe creek, in Carroll county, Md., at or near the site of Frederick City, where he lived about twenty-two years, and was engaged in the business of milling, distilling and farming, at which he prospered and was well to do. Shortly after March 10,1763, when his son Adam, Jr., was born, his first wife died. After a suitable period of mourning had elapsed, the elder Wise consoled himself for the loss by taking another wife a German lady and a few years after, his nomadic spirit having revived, he closed out his business in Maryland, and started with his family, now numerous, in search of a new home in the wilds of western Pennsylvania (making the long and tedious journey over the mountains in wagons), and settled on North Ten Mile creek, probably about the year 1770, if not earlier. This section of country was then known as "The Wilderness of Ten Mile" and was very sparsely settled. Only four years before this the first white settlement within the present limits of Washington county had been made near the junction of Ten Mile creek with the Monongahela river, and about four miles down the stream from the point where Adam Wise selected his new home. The selection was judiciously made. Perhaps nowhere in Washington county could he have found a more inviting site for a homestead. On a commanding eminence overlooking the beautiful valley of Ten Mile he built his cabin home. He must have been a man of cultured and refined taste, as a family tradition states that he was largely influenced in selecting this location by the picturesque landscape here presented to his view, and more particularly by the groves of white pine growing in this locality a feature of natural scenery very rare in Washington county. Here he located a tract of land, then in Westmoreland county, comprising about 400 acres, by what was called a "tomahawk improvement;" that is, he blazed the trees around his boundaries. The tract lies on the north side of North Ten Mile creek, about two and one-half miles from its junction with the south branch, and about four miles from the Monongahela river. This tract he named "The Fishery," for the reason that the finny tribe was very numerous at this point in the waters of Ten Mile, and it was patented March 19, 1785, under that name, by his son Peter Wise, who inherited it, the warrant having issued June 26, 1785. The delay in taking out a patent was occasioned by the disturbed state of the country caused by the Revolutionary war, and also owing to the death of the original proprietor, which occurred before its close.

After the erection of Washington county, by act of Assembly, March 28, 1781, this tract was included in Washington, and after the county was subdivided into townships it was in Bethlehem; then after its subdivision into East and West Bethlehem, it was partly in both townships, the line passing nearly through its center. The village of Zollarsville is now located on a part of this tract. A recital of the adventures and hardships experienced by this family during the first few years of its life in the wilderness would be too voluminous for this sketch until the close of the Revolutionary war the Indians were hostile and the settlers were constantly menaced by destruction at their hands. At one time the danger became so threatening that they forsook their home and took refuge in old Fort Redstone, in which one of their children was born. The nearest trading posts were Winchester, Va., and Frederick City, Md., and to one of those points journeys were frequently made for the purchase of salt, hardware and other necessaries which they could not produce on the farm. These trips required about a month to make, and several settlers generally traveled together, for mutual protection against the wild beasts and marauding savages. Each man generally had charge of three horses, all heavily laden with such produce of their farms as could be carried on pack saddles. At first they carried wheat, but this proved too weighty then they tried flax, but this proved too bulky. At last finding that whisky and peach brandy were highly prized and commanded high prices at these trading posts, small distilleries were soon erected on almost every farm, and their products soon came to be the chief articles of export and trade. The sites of three of these primitive distilleries are still plainly marked on the old Wise plantation. This whisky took the name of the region in which it was manufactured, and "Old Monongahela" soon became a popular brand a distinction which it has retained to the present day.

For several years the only mills for grinding grain were run by hand or by horse power, but the practical mind and enterprising spirit of Adam Wise soon conceived the idea of erecting a flouring mill to be propelled by water power, and to him and his son Andrew must be given the credit of erecting the first mill built within the valley of Ten Mile. It is not now positively known in what year this mill was erected, but a plat of the land made in 1785 shows the location of the mill, race and dam, and it was in successful operation and a place of note in 1788, as is shown by a petition of the inhabitants of Bethlehem township to the court in that year, which prays "that a line dividing said township into two parts, should begin at Peter Drake's and thence by a straight line to Wise's Mill which has ever been accounted centreable." This mill, however, was probably in operation about 1775, or shortly thereafter, first with an undershot wheel, and upon a small scale, but as the settlement rapidly increased it was soon found to be insufficient to do the business, and it was torn down, and a large mill with three run of buhrs, and overshot wheels, was erected near the site of the old mill. For many years it did an immense business, having no competition, flour of its manufacture being shipped in keel and flat boats as far south as New Orleans. Not long after the erection of the flouring mill, a sawmill was also erected, which did a large business, being surrounded by the primeval forest, and lumber being in great demand on account of the rapid settlement of the neighborhood.

In the midst of all this business, Adam Wise, by whose capital and enterprise the mills were erected, died June 9, 1781, in his sixty-third year, and was buried in a graveyard on his plantation. A plain stone, with his age and date of death rudely cut thereon, still marks the grave where sleeps this sturdy, brave-hearted, enterprising pioneer. He was a useful man in his day and generation. Probably no man ever lived in this section who did so much to promote its rapid settlement and improvement. By his enterprise in erecting a mill, other settlers were attracted to the neighborhood, on account of the convenience thereof, the primeval forests rapidly gave way to cultivated fields, and the rich hills of Bethlehem were soon covered with golden grain. This mill passed out of the ownership of the Wise family in 1840, and was torn down in 1867. It was sold outside of the family for a few years, but was repurchased and owned and operated by said family for more than half a century. Adam Wise left a large estate for the time, and also a large family, his children being thirteen in number. By his first wife, who died in Maryland, he had five sons, viz.: Andrew, born in Germany; Peter, Frederick, Henry and Adam, Jr.; by his second wife, Catharine, he had eight children, viz.: sons Jacob, Daniel, Abraham and Tobias, and daughters Mary, Mary Ann, Ulian and Judith, some of whom were born before he left Maryland, others, after he came to Washington county, Penn.; of these, Andrew patented the farm where Thomas Martindell now lives. He married Zeruah Hartman, and died March 4, 1840, aged ninety-two years, his remains lying buried in the graveyard on his father's original plantation. His descendants now reside in and near Logansport, Ind., from one of whom Mr. George C. Horn, the writer of this sketch is indebted for much of the information used in its preparation.

Peter, the second son, inherited by the will of his father (dated April 13, 1781) the family homestead, and lived thereon until 1818, when he sold it to his son Andrew, and moved to near Canton, Ohio, where his posterity now generally reside, constituting a numerous and influential family. Hannah, a daughter of Peter, married Jacob Zollars, and lived on a part of the old Wise tract until her death. She was the mother of four children, all of whom are now dead or moved away from this county except Demas Zollars, who still resides here at an advanced age. Frederick, the third son, founded the town of Fredericktown, situated on the Monongahela river, upon land patented and owned by him, and named it after its founder. The survey was made March 8, 1790. He seems to have been a Prohibitionist, a rare distinction probably in his day, for among other things he stipulated in his deed to purchasers of lots "that no distillery for the destruction of grain or fruits shall be at any time erected on the premises." Two of the sons of Adam Wise, viz., Henry and Daniel, settled in Virginia, and their descendants are numerous in that State at the present day, but nothing definite concerning them is known to the writer. Jacob lived and died in Washington county, and some of his descendants still live here. Of Abraham and Tobias, with their sisters, Mary, Mary Ann and Ulian, the writer after diligent inquiry can find no trace. They must either have died or moved away to parts unknown to the writer. They probably moved to Ohio along with their half-brother Peter, who was made their testamentary guardian by their father. Judith married Rev. John Spohn, a minister in the German Baptist Church, and some of her grandchildren are still residents of this county.

Adam Wise, the fifth son of Adam, Sr., by his first wife, was born April 5, 1763. He married Barbara Zollars, a daughter of Frederick Zollars, a pioneer in the neighborhood. He became owner of a farm of about 276 acres adjoining the land of his brother Peter. About 1812 he became the owner of the old Wise mill, and of 100 acres of the old homestead. He operated the mill in connection with his farms until 1824, when he disposed of his property among his children, and retired from active business life. He died July 15, 1842, aged seventy-nine years; his wife, Barbara, died September 29, 1852, aged ninety-three years. Adam Wise was a member of the German Baptist or Dunkard Church, and so great was his religious zeal, that when he erected his new brick residence, now owned and occupied by James R. Hawkins, he had the second story finished in one compartment, so that public religious services could be held therein. His wife, however, was of the Lutheran faith, and was one of the original members of the Lutheran Church, which was organized here by Rev. Stowe in 1792. They were the parents of eight children, viz.: Elizabeth, David, Samuel, George, Rebecca, Frederick, Joseph and Solomon.

Elizabeth, born May 8, 1785, married Jacob Shidler, and settled with her husband on a farm located on Daniels run, in West Bethlehem township. She was the mother of five children all sons, viz.: George, Adam, Samuel, Joseph and Jacob, all of whom are now dead or moved out of this State. George was a minister of the German Baptist denomination, but moved to the West many years ago. Joseph became a noted physician, and practiced his profession in West Bethlehem township, until his death. She and her husband were both members of the German Baptist Church, and the brick church on Daniels run, still in use by that society, was built on land donated by her husband.

David, born March 8, 1787, located on a portion of his father's homestead, and also purchased the Ludwig Praker farm adjoining, on which he lived the remainder of his life. He was twice married, his first wife being Miss Esther Shidler and his second Miss Rachel Garrett. He literally obeyed the Divine command "to multiply and replenish the earth," for he became the father of eighteen children. By his first wife he had ten, viz.: Adam, Jr., Barbara, Elizabeth, David, Jr., George, Henry, Hannah, Anne, John and Benjamin. By his second he had eight, viz.: Amos, Jacob, Nicholas, Isaac, Mary, Lydia, Maria and Isabel. Of this large family all are now living but five, and the homes of the balance are scattered in four different States. He was a worthy member of the German Baptist denomination, and illustrated by life and example the teachings of the Divine Master whom he loved and served. Three of his sons, viz.: Adam, David and John, are ministers of the German Baptist Church, the latter being a bishop of that Society. Two of his grandsons are also in the ministry.

Samuel, born August 10, 1789, married a Miss Shidler, a daughter of John Shidler. He first settled on a farm near Hillsborough in West Bethlehem township, but subsequently removed to Knox county, Ohio. He had a large family of which nothing definite is now known to the writer.

George, born November 13, 1791, married Miss Margaret Ulery, a daughter of Stephen Ulery, of this county. He resided for several years near the village of Hillsborough, but subsequently purchased a large tract of land situated on Ruff's creek in Greene county, Penn., to which he removed. In his old age he disposed of this homestead and moved with his family to Marshall county, Ill. He was the father of nine children, viz.: sons Stephen, Jackson, Morgan and George A.; daughters Maria, Elizabeth, Isabel, Margaret C. and Matilda. Several of these are now dead, the balance reside in the West. He was a minister in the German Baptist Church, and for many years was pastor of the society of that name on Daniels run. He was not an educated man in the modern acceptation of that term, but his strong practical common sense, wise counsel and earnest piety made him an acceptable minister to his congregation.

Rebecca, born November 20, 1795, married Peter Crumrine, who was a resident of Greene county, Penn. She was the mother of three children. She died at an early age, and her husband, having remarried, moved with his family to Knox county, Ohio. The writer knows nothing of the subsequent history of this family.

Joseph, born May 22, 1797, married Miss Parmelia Barnard, and lived on the mill property heretofore spoken of, which he owned and operated for several years. About the year 1824 his brother, Frederick Wise, purchased a half interest in the mill property and it was operated by the brothers as joint owners until 1840, when it finally passed out of the ownership of the Wise family. Joseph also purchased 165 acres of the original Wise tract from Andrew Wise, the son of Peter Wise, and resided thereon until his death. He was the father of nine children, viz.: sons Solomon B., Morgan R. and Joseph Jr.; daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Emily and Rebecca (both dead), Maria and Barbara. Of those Solomon B. and Morgan R. both reside in Arizona Territory. Morgan became a noted politician, having twice represented Greene county, Penn., in the Legislature, and was twice elected to Congress. Joseph Wise, Jr., inherited his father's homestead and still resides on it, title to which has vested in the Wise family without a break in the succession for one hundred and twenty-two years. Joseph, Jr., married Miss Mary Reynolds, who was educated at Washington Female Seminary, and graduated therefrom in the class of 1869. The daughters living are all married, and all reside in Pennsylvania. Joseph Wise, Sr., was a member and for many years a ruling elder in the Regular Baptist Church. He was a man of strong religious conviction and was always ready to defend the doctrines of his church, yet he was liberal and tolerant of the opinions of others, and had the respect and confidence of all. He died April 20, 1873, and his mortal remains are interred in the graveyard on the old plantation.

Solomon, born May 16, 1799, married Pamela Alexander for his first wife, and after her death he married Jane, her sister. He inherited the greater part of his father's homestead, which he sold in 1854, and moved to Marshall county, III., where he died. His children by his first wife were Sarah Jane, Alexander and Adam T.; by his second Harriet, Emma, Leonidas and Hamlin. The latter died in infancy, the rest are living in the West. Solomon Wise was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was one of the original members of the M. E. Society at Ulery's, organized in 1840. He was one of its first board of trustees, and was a zealous and liberal member of the church.

Frederick, the fourth son of Adam Wise in the order of their ages, was born September 2, 1793. He married, September 4, 1817, Elizabeth Burson, a daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Burson (nee Blackledge), who were among the earliest settlers in what is now Greene county. They emigrated to this section from Bucks county, Penn., in 1789, and settled on a farm near Clarksville, Penn., where Mrs. Wise was born January 26, 1799. She had seven brothers James, Thomas, David, Levi, Joseph, Isaac and Abraham and two sisters Sarah and Margaret. Of these, Thomas, Levi, Isaac and Abraham were citizens of Greene county, Penn. Thomas was a man of considerable note, having held public offices of various kinds during forty-five years of his life. He twice represented Greene county in the Legislature, and served two terms as associate judge of the court. Isaac also served a term as associate judge. Abraham inherited the family homestead, to which his son, James C., succeeded, it having been owned successively by members of the family for one hundred and three years. James and David settled in Columbiana county, Ohio, and Joseph in Jefferson county, Ohio. Sarah became the wife of John Johnston, of Columbiana county, Ohio, and Margaret married Joseph Burson, of Guernsey county, Ohio.

Mrs. Wise was a Quakeress by birth, and could trace her lineage through a long line of Quaker ancestry back to Joseph Burson, who came from London, England, to Philadelphia with William Penn's first colony of Quakers in 1681. Her great-great-grandmother was Mary Potts, an aunt of Isaac Potts, at whose house near Valley Forge Washington had his headquarters in the Revolution. Frederick Wise, as before stated, was joint owner with his brother Joseph of the mill property, and in addition he owned about 120 acres of the original "Fishery" tract, having purchased it from his father, upon which he lived, and where his useful, honorable and blameless life closed in death, February 14, 1876, when he was aged eighty-two years five months twelve days. He was buried in the old Wise burying ground, already the last resting place of many of his own kith and kin. His beloved wife died December 23, 1879, and now sleeps by his side. She was aged eighty years ten months and twenty-seven days. Frederick Wise and his wife were both members of the German Baptist Church, of which he was an elder or deacon. He was of a quiet, peaceable disposition, and was pre-eminently a peacemaker. He was frequently called upon to settle disputes among his neighbors, and especially among the membership of his church, and so great was the confidence reposed in his wisdom, justice and impartiality, that his arbitrament generally proved satisfactory, and the blessing promised to the peacemaker by the Divine Master rested upon him, even during his life on earth. He was the father of four children, viz.: Adam, who died in infancy, Margaret, Emeline and Joseph B.

Margaret was born October 2, 1818 became the wife of James C. Hawkins, March 24, 1836, and died January 15, 1892, less than one year after the death of her husband, with whom she had lived happily for fifty-five years. Her married life was spent on a farm in East Bethlehem township, Washington county. She and her husband were consistent members of the Bethlehem Baptist Church, in which faith she continued steadfast until her death. She possessed in an eminent degree the qualities which adorn womanhood. We quote the following tribute to her memory published at the time of her decease by a distinguished minister of the Baptist Church. "She was a woman of peace and great kindness of heart. For many years her home was the home of her pastor, and she was faithful to her church even at the expense of her comfort and health. She possessed those traits which endeared her to her family and neighbors, and led her to faithful service to her Master." She was the mother of seven children, viz.: Emma (now dead), who became the wife of Rev. J. L. Thompson; Dr. A. W. H., who was a surgeon in the United States navy, died unmarried: Alexander L., who married Miss Cynthia Greenfield (he served in the United States army as captain during the war of the Rebellion, and is now colonel of the Tenth Regiment, N. G. P.); Cynthia is unmarried; Elizabeth, now dead, became the wife of John Sargent; James R. married Miss Decima Addleman; William N. married Miss Ada Farquhar. All of these who are now living reside in Washington county.

Emeline, born November 28, 1820, became the wife of Richard C. Hawkins, November 25, 1841, and resides on a farm near Jefferson, Greene Co., Penn. She and her husband are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She is the mother of eight children, viz.: Joseph W., who married Miss Clarinda Bailey; James T. (now deceased), married to Miss Anna E. Greenlee; Margaret V., married to William C. Bailey; Clara E., married to William J. Bodley; Thomas H., married to Miss Frances Bailey; William B., married to Miss Mary Murdock; Samuel C., married to Miss Mary E. Grimes; Frederick W., deceased in infancy; all the survivors reside in Greene county, Penn., except Clara, who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Joseph B., born May 29, 1833, was married November 30, 1879, to Miss Sarah V. Stockdale, of Morris township, Greene Co., Penn. Her parents were William and Hannah Stockdale (nee McQuaid), both of Washington Co., Penn. Her grandparents were James Stockdale, of Belfast, Ireland, and Mary Wier, of Morris township, Washington Co., Penn. Her brothers were Hon. Thomas R. Stockdale, now member of Congress from Mississippi; Hon. James Stockdale, of Baltimore, Md., deceased; Hon. John M. Stockdale, of Washington, Penn., and Robert Stockdale, Esq., of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Her sisters were Mary, wife of Thaddeus Dodd, M. D., of Amity, Penn., and Isabel, wife of Blachley Lindley, of Morris township, Washington Co., Pennsylvania.

Joseph B. Wise was educated at Greene Academy and Waynesburgh College, Penn., at which institution his wife graduated in the class of 1854. He was engaged in teaching for ten years, and then turned his attention to farming and stock raising. He owns about two hundred acres of the original Fishery tract, a part of which he inherited from his father, on which he now resides. He is now serving his third term as justice of the peace. He is the father of two children, viz.: William F., who graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in the class of 1883, read law with Thomas C. Lazear, Esq., of Pittsburgh, and is now a practicing attorney in that city; Charles S., who graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in the class of 1888, and read law with David T. Watson, Esq., of Pittsburgh, where he is a practicing attorney with his brother.

We here close the biography of the Wise family. We regret its many omissions and imperfections, but we plead in extenuation the meagerness of our material. If any early records of the family were kept, they are now lost, and we have been compelled to rely for our information on public documents and such family traditions as we believe to be authentic. We regret that we could not give more in detail the history of the collateral branches of the family, but this the limited space at our command forbids. Our object has been to commemorate the dead rather than the living; to brush away the dust from a few noble old burial urns, in which repose the ashes of the founders of our family. Our aim has been to exhibit the trunk and primary branches from which our family has sprung, so that the generations present and to come may attach their branches thereto, and thus keep alive and in vigorous growth the old family tree. In reviewing the history of our family, we find that they have been mostly plain, practical, common people generally farmers. None of them "have stood the applause of listening senates to command," or "waded through slaughter to a throne," but some of them have honorably filled almost every position in life. Some have been representatives in Congress and in the Legislatures of their respective States. Some have been editors, some physicians, some lawyers. Some have been ministers of the Gospel of Christ, and some have stood as loyal soldiers on the battlefields of their country. None of them have been millionaires, but most of them have been well-to-do, and none so poor that they could not command their own time and lead an independent life. And best of all, none have ever lived an inebriate's life, or been convicted of an infamous crime.

That the generations yet to be may emulate and excel those past and present, in all that constitutes the highest type of intellectual, moral and Christian manhood, is the wish of the author JOSEPH B. WISE.

Text taken from page 256 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).

Transcribed January 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.
Published January 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at

Frederick Wise