The Old Homestead

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God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

- Romans 5:8


    Benjamin Custard lived near Pittsburgh, Pa., during the American Revolution.  He may have been the son of Paul and Gertrud Custer of Montgomery County. (1)
    Married Ruth Thompson, daughter of James and Elizabeth Thompson. (2)
    Children: (3)
    Susannah.  Married Sampson Piersol.
    Rebeccah.  Married a man named Babb.
    Benjamin first appears in records from the Pittsburgh area in 1775, when he received a certificate for land on the waters of Peters Creek.  The certificate was issued in Virginia’s Yohogania County.  In the 1770s, the area surrounding Pittsburgh was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania and both colonies encouraged settlement there.  Both colonies established local governments – Virginia called the area West Augusta, Ohio and Yohogania counties and Pennsylvania called it Westmoreland County, a part of which later became Washington County. Toward the end of the Revolution, Pennsylvania was granted most of the land.  The rest is now part of West Virginia. (4)
    In 1777 and 1778, Benjamin appears in the court records of Yohogania County.  On Aug. 25, 1777, Benjamin Custard and Rebekah Robins took the oath as executors of the will of Job Robins.  On April 29, 1778, Benjamin Custard and John Wall entered “Special Bail for Michael Humble and John Johnston at the suit of Mary Burris.”  During the same court session, Benjamin registered the marks that he would use to identify his animals: “a Cropt and slit in the right Ear and a Slit in the Left.”  In addition he sat on a jury that heard a number of cases.  And, on May 16, 1778, the records say, “Richard McMahon enters Special Bail for Jacob Long, Junr. At the suit of Benjamin Castor.”  The nature of the suit is not specified. (5)
    In 1781, Benjamin appears in tax records for Nottingham Township, Washington County.  At that time, he owned 350 acres of land, four horses, two cows and seven sheep.  The 1783 tax lists shows that he owned 370 acres, three horses, four cows and 12 sheep. Benjamin’s will says he lived in Mifflin Township, Allegheny County, which was formed out of Peters Township when the new county was established. (6)  At least some of his land later fell within the boundaries of what became Jefferson Township because an 1876 history of that municipality says: “Benjamin Custard was also an early resident, and was probably in the township in 1785, and perhaps before.  His land was near Peter’s Creek, a mile and a half from the Washington County line, and now occupied by his descendants, who have changed the name to Castor.” (7)
    The book “Early History of the Peters Creek Valley and the Early Settlers” contains information on Benjamin and his family. “Benjamin Custard was granted 350 acres of land patented as ‘Custard’s Delight.’  The tax records of 1781 show this land as being in Nottingham Township.  … His occupation is shown as a woodcarver (he made fine hand-carved furniture and violins) and as a ‘drover.’  He bought and sold cattle and in the same year, the Circuit Court granted him an earmark and brand for cattle. … When Virginia gave up her claim of Pennsylvania land, Benjamin filed his priority Virginia claim.  On April 25, 1788, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted him a patent for 333 acres of the 350 acres granted to him by Virginia (Pennsylvania Land Patents, Book N.B., page 74.)” (8)
    The book also mentions that Benjamin was appointed constable by the Yohogania County court on Sept. 29, 1778; however, I haven’t found records indicating such an appointment.
    On March 5, 1789, Benjamin Kester bought 200 acres on the Penny Fork of Peters Creek, adjoining land of John Wallace, John Finley, James Kykendall and others.  He bought the land from Absolom Hankins and one of the witnesses was Benjamin’s son-in-law “Samson Pursol.” (9)
    The 1790 Census indicates that Benjamin’s household had one male over 16, six males under 16 and one female.
    During the Revolutionary War, Benjamin served as a private in Washington County militia units, which usually mustered following Indian raids.  Benjamin Custard appears as a private in the second class of Capt. William Bruce’s company of the 2nd Battalion, mustering on March 18 and June 22, 1782.  In addition, Benjamin appears to have paid William French to serve in his place during a muster in mid-January 1782. (10)
    On Jan. 5, 1797, Benjamin sold much of “Custards Delight situate on the Waters of Peters Creek” to his son-in-law Sampson Piersol for 50 pounds.  Records of this transaction indicate that Benjamin received a grant for this land on Sept. 15, 1784.  Sampson sold the land to Gilbert Kriker on April 3, 1804. (11)
    The family still lived in Mifflin Township, Allegheny County, in 1823, when Benjamin wrote his will.
    Benjamin died before Jan. 20, 1826, when his will was recorded.  Ruth was listed as still living at that time.
    The estate papers indicate that Benjamin was still relatively prosperous for a farmer in that area. He owned a mare, two cows, 14 sheep and 2 sows. He also had loaned more than $1,000 to others over the preceding 14 years.
    (1) A Benjamin is listed as an heir in the will of Paul Custer of Perkiomen and Skippack townships, Montgomery County, Pa.  The will is in Will Book 1, page 450.  However, he appears to be too young to be the right Benjamin.  (2) James Thompson’s will as cited in “Abstracts of Washington County, Pennsylvania, Will Books 1-5 (1776-1841),” compiled by Bob and Mary Closson, page 20.  (3) Benjamin’s will in Allegheny County, Pa., Will Book 3, page 119, No. 65.  The will mentions that Conrad had already died by June 23, 1823 and that Gabrial, Samson and Edward were the youngest sons.   (4) The certificates are cites in “Records of Washington County (PA) Yohogania County (VA) and Ohio County (VA),” by Raymond M. Bell and Jean S. Morris, page 63.  Information on Virginia’s claim is from “History of Allegheny County, Pa.,” pages 61 to 74.  (5) “Records of the District of West Augusta, Ohio County and Yohogania County, Va.,” pages 91, 217, 218 and 225. (6) Tax lists are in “Washington County, Pennsylvania, Tax Lists,” compiled by Raymond Martin Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, which is available at the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, D.C.  (7) “History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,” by Samuel W. Durant, page 155.  (8) “Early History of the Peters Creek Valley and the Early Settlers,” Noah Thompson, page 38.  The information is attributed to the Rev. J. W. Dean of Jersey Shore, Pa.  On page 78, the book says that Benjamin took out a claim for 333 acres in 1788 and called it “Custards’ Delight.”  (9) “Allegheny County Pennsylvania Archives, Vol. II: Deed Books 1&2, Allegheny County, PA, 1789-1792,” abstracted by KTH McFarland, page 54.  (10) “Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 6, Vol. II, pages 33, 57 and 29, respectively.  An additional undated listing appears on page 76.  (10) Allegheny County, Pa., Estate Inventory, No. 29 of 1826.  (11) Allegheny County Deed Books 5, page 551, and 12, page 297, respectively.