Site hosted by Build your free website today!

George Graham


Brooke County


Robert Roy Livingston,

Placerville, California

My great great grandfather was George Davis Graham born in 1815 near Wellsburg, Brooke County. He was the grandson of one of Brooke County's early settlers, Thomas Graham. He attended local schools as a child and was trained to be a wheelwright. But his love was the river, and during his young adulthood he worked on the flatboats that traveled up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. When the flatboat trade began to wane, he began to pilot river boats. In 1850 he met and married Sarah Jane Roy in Natchez, Mississippi. He had a son there, Thomas Roy and shortly thereafter returned to Brooke County to say his last good byes to his mother and father. He was heading west to seek his fortunes in the gold fields of California. Traveling by wagon from St. Joseph, Missouri, he crossed the plains and the Nevada desert, arriving in Placerville in July, 1851. He spent a year mining, but saw there was more money to be made developing the land rather than tearing it apart. He then sailed north up the coast from San Francisco on the Brig Wyandotte to Humboldt Bay. The short voyage took 13 days in very stormy weather. There, he was instrumental in organizing and establishing the lumbering and fishing port of Eureka. Shortly thereafter he sent for his wife and son who traveled by ship around the Horn to arrive in Eureka in December of 1853.

George Graham became a prominent citizen in Humboldt County, a developer of real estate, a rancher and a lumberman. But it was his childhood in Brooke County, WV and his times on the river that he liked to talk about. So I decided I could do a little research about his family in Brooke County and came up with the following information on the family there. At the end of the narrative is a letter from Nathaniel Wells, George's first cousin who was living in Steubenville at the time. Then I present a little genealogical mystery about another Wells family member of Brook County who also lived in Eureka for a time. If anybody is familiar with the Wells family, maybe they can identify this man and how he might be connected to my family of Grahams.

Thomas Graham,

Brooke County Pioneer

George's grandfather was Thomas Graham who was born about 1750 in Ireland. He immigrated to America in 1768 and it is assumed that he first settled in Pennsylvania and engaged in farming. On March 26, 1776 he enlisted in Captain Patrick Andersonís Company of Foot in Colonel Samuel J. Attleeís Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line of the Army. His period of enlistment was contracted to last until January 1, 1778. Thomas fought in one of the nationís first massive engagements of the War, the Battle of Long Island, on August 27, 1776. While stationed at Fort Washington, outside of Philadelphia, his unit was besieged by the British. In the skirmish, he was hit by musket fire, his right hand was badly wounded and he was taken prisoner by the enemy. His captors treated his hand, but the damage done rendered him incapable of further action. So he was shortly thereafter released back to the Continental Army. Because of his wounds, he was discharged at Philadelphia in 1777.

Thomas married Hannah Hooper in York County, Pennsylvania on July 16, 1778. The couple settled in York County, Pennsylvania where they purchased land and began to establish a family. A "History of York County, Pennsylvania" indicates that Thomas and Hannah had a total of 11 children, 5 sons and 6 daughters. But we only know of five: Robert, Mary (also know as Polly), Thomas Jr., Sarah, and Rebecca. Sometime around the turn of the century Thomas and his wife and several of his children moved to Holidayís Cove, Brooke County, Virginia. It is believed Hannah died about 1820 and Thomas died at Holiday's Cove in 1835.

Robert, the eldest of the known Graham children, apparently inherited family land in York County where he married and raised a family. He is known to have had at least four children, Hannah, James, Robert, and Thomas.

Mary, the eldest daughter, remained a spinster throughout her life and was shown to be supporting her mother and father near Holiday's Cove in 1818 when her father submitted application papers for his War Pension. She was using her father's loom to do weaving, which brought in enough money to help out her parents. At later dates, census records show her to be living with the families of her sister, Sarah, and her brother, Thomas. She died sometime after 1860.

Thomas Graham Jr. is known to have been a miller and on census records he is noted as being a farmer. He married Honor Davis, youngest daughter of Nathaniel and Catherine Davis of Holidayís Cove, Brooke County sometime about 1813. They established their home near Wellsburg where they raised 11 children. They included: Nathaniel Davis born 1814 (married Eliza ?); George Davis born 1815 (married Sarah Jane Roy); William Griffin born 1817 (married Mary ?); Catherine born 1819; Margaret Ann born 1822 (married Jake ?); Thomas Davis born 1823 (married Margaret Agnew); Baptist Griffin born 1825; Martin Lightlittle born 1829 (married Elizabeth ?); Rachael born 1831; and Rebecca born 1833 (married Thomas Ralston).

In 1839 Thomas and Honor purchased 200 acres of land on Harmonís Creek in Hanover Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania. This land was later purchased by their son, William after their deaths in 1875. The couple is buried at Three Springs Presbyterian Cemetery outside of Weirton, Hancock County, West Virginia. Their gravestones still stand prominently in the grave yard which is adjacent to the childhood home of Honor Davis.

Sarah Graham, the fourth of Thomas and Hannah Grahamís known children, married Nathaniel Davis, the older brother of Honor Davis (mentioned above) about 1810. The obituary of a later descendant indicates that Sarah and Nathaniel had a total of 11 children, but to date only 4 can be named. They were: Thomas Graham born 1815 (married Nancy McCreary); David Franklin born 1817 (married 1. Delia Ann Lucy, 2. Louisa Ann Runyon); Editha born 1827 (married James E. Scott); and Susan born about 1823. Sarah was widowed sometime before 1838. In the 1840 Census she is shown to be the head of household, caring for eight children.

A Letter from Nathaniel Wells of Steubenville

Nathaniel Wells was a first cousin to George Graham. His mother, Susanna and George's mother, Honor were sisters. The following letter has been folded in our family Bible for many years. It makes reference to "Aunt Sarah" (Sarah Graham, mentioned above) and other Brooke County families. Word and punctuation are as written in Nathaniel Well's hand. The parenthesis are mine.

Steubenvill Oct 9th 1881

George Graham

My worthy Cousin,

My wife and I Set talking about you it occured to me that I had not written to you for a long time. I turned to my desk, pensil in hand to renew fond memory and give you a few items of news that may interest you.

well George, our beloved Aunt Sarah Still lives. She is at Scotts the same as when you was here, but now able to git out and in bed without help. The rest of the friends are all well, so far as I know. I see Beck (Rebecca Graham) & Thomas (Ralston) frequently when down on business. They are getting along fine, Harmine Wright was marryed to Alex Ralston. Rafina P. Wright is marryed to Thomas C. Wheeler (January 26, 1881). Jake and Margret (Graham) has none left but Ross.

I was in Kansas in August last. I staid in Atchison. Saw Jess and also Saw your Brother William. I staid one night with him he lives one mile from Atchison on a farm owned by Jess Wells. He complains of being pore but Says his is making a good living he seams to be comfortably fixt. His prodigal Son Gamble is living in Atchison working at carpenter work. Jess said he has behaved well since he came there. William has two daughters living with him Sprightly young girls. I went to Kansas to purchase a farm in Jackson County 40 miles Southwest of Atchison, I bought it it is an old improved farm fruit of all land well watered and improved otherways. I bought for my boy who lives in Kansas 250 miles South west of Jackson. I did not go to see him the wether was so extremely hot I thought best to return home.

I have nothing strange to write you. Bartly Campbell died a few months ago, David Campbellís wife died last Saturday. The farm I bought in Kansas I rented the next day after I bought it for two years at 15 per cent of its cost per year also taxes paid and repairs kept up. The farm contains 180 acres 25 acres good timber 3 flowing springs, the balance all prerary.(prairie)

My respects to your family write when you feel like it allways glad to hear from old and respected friends.

Ever Yours,

Nathl Wells

PS Garfield is dead but the Nation lives and will continue to live.

(On back side of letter)

Since closing the letter I saw Dr. Hill he sends his respects to you.

A Scoundrel From Brooke County

And now for my little mystery. Is the Jess Wells referred to in Nathaneil's letter above, the same Jesse Wells who served as Treasurer of Humboldt County, California in the 1850s? While doing research on the Grahams in Humboldt County I kept running across references to a Jesse Wells. He apparently was part owner, along with my gg grandfather of a lumber mill on the waterfront. He also owned a 160 acre logging claim and several city blocks. During his tenure as Treasurer of the County, he sold off most of these properties and proceeded to abscond all of the county's liquid assets, running off to parts unknown. His remaining properties were auctioned off by the county sheriff and the proceeds of $700 were put in the trust of a former under sheriff, a Henry McKay.

Henry McKay was apparently a shady character too. The following is a clip from the local paper on March 31, 1860

The Times

Sloped - By reference to a card from Sheriff Van Nest in another column, it will be seen that Henry McKay, formerly Under Sheriff of this county, left on the steamer Columbia on Monday last, carrying away some $700 for which Sheriff Van Nest will have to be responsible. The money stolen had been collected from the effects of Jesse Wells, the defaulting treasurer, and was to have been applied on an Execution, which has beenissued out of the District Court, on a judgement against Jesse Wells. There seems to bea strange fatality hanging over the ex-treasurerís effects.

On the same day the following also appeared:

The Times

Notice of Slope - To the world and to the rest of mankind, Be it known that one Henry McKay, (commonly known as "Handsome Harry") of smooth tongue, robust appearance, and fascinating manners - further described as follows: about 5 Ĺ feet high, heavy set, short, thick brown hair, full face, blue eyes, twenty-eight years old, with a beautiful little moustache on his upper lip, and a promising little imperial on his lower lip, (with which ornaments he was excessively prone to allow his hands to middle), did on the 26th instance for the sum of $700, willfully betray an affected confidence in him by those who were disposed to build and nourish trust for and in him.

On April 7, 1860 the paper ran this two-liner:

The Times

Harry McKay brought back on Columbia and lodged in jail. Justice Kimball set bond at$1000. He made no effort to give bail.

Finally, on May 5, 1850, news arrives of Jesse Well's demise:

The Times

George Graham has received a letter from his sister in Virginia which mentions our defaulting treasurer, Jesse Wells. She knew him well, as she lived a neighbor to his fatherís family. He was within the vicinity of his home for several weeks, during which time his father died. Aged parent resolved not to see his guilty son. Saw his sisters however, without the fatherís knowledge.

July 3, 1887 - Arcata, California

The Union

Warrant No. 575, now canceled, which be Treasurer of Humboldt County was directed to pay to William Hutchison, has found its way to this office. It is dated August 3, 1857 and is signed by Lewis K. Wood, Auditor. It is not paid for want of funds, which fact is certified to on the back by Jesse Wells, Treasurer.

So here's my question to the sleuths out there: Is the Jess Wells of Atkinson, Nebraska mentioned in Nathaiel Wells letter of 1881 the same Jesse Wells, Treasurer and Thief of Humboldt County? Which family of Wells in Brooke County does he belong to? If you've got an answer, please contact me. Rob Livingston:


Brooke County Genealogy