Sunday, January 19, 2014

History Of Hepburn Family In The Early History Of Lycoming County

The Williamsport Sun
Tuesday February 28 1922

History Of Hepburn Family In The
Early History Of Lycoming County

In two parts, The Sun will publish the address delivered by Chas.J. Reilly of this city before the Lycoming County Society of Philadelphia at its annual meeting in Philadelphia on the evening of February 23. The first part follows. The second part will be published tomorrow.

 Because the history of Williamsport and Lycoming county is so largely a history of the Hepburn family from which comes your president, I have gone at some length and will give you a somewhat extended account of the pioneers of the West Branch valley of that name.

 Samuel who settled on the West Branch of the Susquehanna river, Northumberland county, Pennsylvania., was born near  Glasgow, Scotland, the year 1698. From him came your president,  The remote ancestor of Samuel,.. and hence of your president, was Patrick Hepburn, third Lord Hailes and First Earl of Bothwell. Prior to Patrick the Hepburns, 'from whom he came, were prominent' and distinguished in letters, religion and statesmanship. After Patrick carne many who were especially distinguished in these regards, and among them were many gallant soldiers of fortune, some in Scotland, Ireland and France. Some were associated with the endeavors of the famous. Gustavus Adolphus; snm»y some with Louis XIII of France and with Richelieu, one having been killed in the expedition against Saverne, and had he lived, would have been made marshal of France. Many of them were distinguished in law and in literature, and one of them, Col. David Hepburn, was one of the heroes of Waterloo.


 Samuel, aforementioned, the father of James, William, Samuel and John, having settled in Pennsylvania, at Northumberland, was therefore the immediate. progenitor of those of the Hepburns. among them your president, who became famous in the history of Northumberland, especially that part afterward Lycoming county. This Samuel, for a. long time before coming here, had been a resident of Donegal, in Ireland. Two of his sons, James and William, having received many favorable reports of the particular advantages to settlers early in the country, were the first to come in America., early in 1773. They sailed from Londonderry in Ireland and in due time landed at Philadelphia. James was twenty-six years of age amt William was eighteen. Upon arrival they started for the interior of Pennsylvania., being attracted by the reports which reached them of the beauty and fertility of  what was known as the New Purchase-or more particularly the lands lying in the valley of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The father and the others came later. 

When Samuel determined to come he concluded to bring his wife  and daughter with him. He also brought his younger sons, Samuel, Jr., and John. It is said the voyage proved uneventful until the coast of New Jersey was reached, when a storm arose and the vessel was driven on the sands and wrecked, an attempt was made to land a boatload of passengers, but it was swamped by the breakers and Mrs. Hepburn and her daughter were drowned._An officer of the Historical Society, of Pennsylvania, some time ago was informed  from Atlantìc vessel wrecked at Absecon in 1765.  There is also a tradition to the effect that the vessel was wrecked off Newfoundland.

The Revolution having ended, James entered into a co-partnership with John Cowden, and Hepburn Cowden, dealers in merchandise, was organized.

The desire to acquire land seems to have been one of the governing principles of James Hepburn. Among the many conveyances to him and his brother, William, may he found that 0f Deer Park and Mt. Joy which was a large part of that which is now the city of Williamsport. This deed was signed March 3, by John Hollingsworth and wife, the land conveyed therein was afterward divided between James and William. Deer Park, lying between what are now Campbell and Susquehanna, street, was taken by William; Mt. Joy, lying between Campbell and Hepburn streets.  Several years before these feeds were executed, however, each one had occupied the land and made improvements, showing that the division had long been contemplated. These two tracts now constitute the central part of the city of Williamsport, and many of the; most elegant residences and churches are found on Third and Fourth Streets.

William Hepburn. brother of James, was­ born in County Donegal, Ireland, in 1753, and died at Williamsport. Pennsylvania, June 1_25, 1821. Throughout his life he was closely associated with his brother James and was identified with him in some of his most ,extensive land operations. He early showed an enterprising disposition and soon became prominent among the pioneers who preceded him the rich and beautiful valley where he took up his abode.

When Andrew Culbertson, also a native of Ireland, built a mill to supply the settlers with flour at Duboistown, young Hepburn was in his employ in the making of the race to convey the water which was to provide the power for the Wheels. This is the first account we have of William’s work, and this was the beginning of the humble labors of a young man who in time reached the distinguished and honored position of a state senator and president judge. He was a member of the county militia, enrolled for the defense of the frontier, and from that time to close of the Revolutionary War was participant in many of thrilling
scenes which occurred in the fair valley where he resolved to make his home.

In 1778 he had command of a company of militia with headquarters at Fort Muncy, ten miles east of Williamsport.  On the 10th of June of this year came the Bloody Massacre, in almost the central part of the city of Williamsport. Captain Hepburn was called from the|fort, and arriving upon the scene witnessed one of the saddest events in the valley during the war; and as in connection with this sad event it maybe stated that forty-three years afterwards Captain Hepburn was laid in the graveyard wherein` were buried those who perished in that massacre. 

Then came the “Big Runaway” wherein Capt. Hunter, of Fort Augusta at Sunbury, being appraised the approach from'the north of a strong body of savages, issued an order to Captain Hepburn to notify the inhabitants to flee at once to Fort Augusta. The order was promulgated and the flight, the Big Runaway, began - the exciting scenes of which beggar description.

William Hepburn was appointed justice of the peace by Thomas Mifflin, president of the supreme executive  council. under the constitution 1776, and was afterwards re-appointed by the same Thomas Mifflin, who succeeded to the office of governor,and his appointment, dated September 1, 1791, contained a limitation which was confined to the period in which he should "behave himself well."

As population increased goods and Supplies were necessary, and he became a merchant, as well as a farmer. He had much business with Michael Ross. acquired considerable land in the valley. He was very active in the agitation of 1786, and later for the division of Northumberland county, and had a large part in this project and for nine years before it was accomplished. Many petitions were laid before the legislature praying for the division of this county, which was very large in extent. The senatorial district in 1794 was composed of Luzerne, Mifflin and Northumberland counties, and William Montgomery was Senator. He resigned before the. close of his term, and at a.special election held January 8. 1794  William Hepburn was elected to fill the vacancy by a. majority of 64, over Roswell Wells.

This was a, great triumph for the friends of division. Hepburn was active, untiring, and vigorous in his efforts for the erection of the new county, and his persistence made a favorable impression.

 Finally in a conference composed of the two houses, a bill was agreed  to April 13, 1795, and immediately signed by Governor Mifflin. The credit for securing-the final  passage of this bill belongs largely to the persistent and determined efforts of Senator Hepburn, and as recognition of his services and abilities, the governor appointed him chief of four associated judges, April 15, 1795, for the purpose of organizing the judicial machinery of the new county. In a, few days these associate judges completed an organization, electing Senator Hepburn president, and he thus became the first president judge of the  new county of Lycoming. I mention this somewhat in detail because of its significance in ascertaining the origin of the name of Williamsport.

(I think I must be missing a section of this article?)

To this Tunison Coryell came out with a communication wherein he set up the "Ross claim".  Those who knew the situation, it is said, joked about it, but some of the Ross descendants took it seriously.  "Perhaps, " says one of the family, "the situation is best summed up by my mothers reply to my rather contemptuous criticism and determination to  reply to it-"Pay no attention to it: Tunison Coryell came to Williamsport after the pioneer history of the section was completed."

(Thin mother was the granddaughter of Capt. William McMeen, an officer in General Boquet's command in the French and Indian War: also prominent in the famous Fair Play association. and a captain inn the Revolutionary war. She was a daughter of Col, John McMeen of Long Reach)

During the pendency of this discussion a  distinguished member of the Hepburn family suggested that a search among the ancient records would probably reveal  the deed of Michael Ross to a straw man, of the supposedly donated lands for a square ana a court house, for a consideration of so many pounds, shillings and pence and this deed was found, it is asserted, among other papers of James Hepburn.  It is asserted therefore, that s is reasonable to suppose (independent of family knowledge) that he paid this sum to Michael Ross for his said donation, and that after all it may be said to have been donated by James Hepburn, or by the Hepburn Family.

Judge William Hepburn was an exceedingly patriotic man, and this is not strange when it is remembered that he passed through many trying times in fighting the savage foe.  An account of a Fourth of July celebration in 1806, printed at Williamsport among other things says:

 "To celebrate the anniversary of the glorious period which gave birth to the freedom and independence of our country, a certain number of gentlemen of  this borough assembled on Monday on the bank of the Susquehanna, William Hepburn Esq., was chosen president, and Mrs Charles Steward Vice President. After partaking of a collation twenty-three toasts were drank.“

A few culled from the list will show the spirit which animated the meeting:

"George Washington-as a hero and statesman, the pride of America and the admiration of the world - 9 cheers and a volley.

"Our Country - proud of its national honor, may it never cringe to a foreign foe - 3 cheers and a volley.

"Hemp -May there be sufficient of it for all who barter the principles of thier country - 3 cheers and a volley.

"Voluntary by Judge Hepburn - All friends of our country may they never want spirit nor courage to defend it"

Samuel Hepburn, son of Samuel, was born in County Donegal in Ireland, in 175, and came to America with his father and brother, John.  He settled at Milton Pennsylvania.  John Hepburn, son of Samuel, was also born in County of Donegal in Ireland in 1757, and came to America with his father and brother Samuel. His family settled in what is now known as Susquehanna township, Lycoming County, opposite the village of Linden, and six miles from Williamsport.

Thus is noted the circumstances of Samuel and his family as coming here, and of some of their doings during their lives.  From them came a large and extensive progeny, who became by marriage associated with the many names of great distinction in and about the Old Lycoming.  The Hepburn brothers, James and William, have left their mark along the West Branch of the Susquehanna in many places and in many records, showing them to have been wonderfully active and industrious in pursuit of that character of civil organization which makes a good foundation for great and monster growth.

An undertaking to trace the various courses of life obtaining in those following the Samuel Hepburn and his family would be very extensive, but still very interesting, undertaking.  I deem it unnecessary to go further in this record to show that almost all of the descendants of Samuel, and almost without exception, rose to distinction in law, in literature, in medicine and in religion, thus maintaining the dignity of the family as introduced in its originals.







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