The Lesnett family came from Germany. According to family tradition, Christian Lesnett came to America in 1752.
The name is spelled a variety of ways but the usual spelling in the early days was Lisnett. It later became Lesnett.
Points of interest: Christian Lesnett served on Col. Henry Bouquet’s expedition to Fort Pitt during the Indian War known as Pontiac’s Conspiracy and later served in the militia during the Revolutionary War; Dell Lesnett served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
See George W. Bowers.
CHRISTIAN and CHRISTIANNA LESNETT
Christian Lesnett was born in 1728 in Hesse-Kassel, Germany, according to family tradition. (1)
Married Christianna. (See below)
Frederick, born 1758.
Francis, also known as Frank, born Nov. 13, 1759.
Sophia, born 1762. Married William Rowley.
Christopher, born 1765.
Margaret, born 1767. Married Richard Boyce.
Christian Jr., born 1769.
Christianna, born March 13, 1771. Married John Neal.
George, born 1777.
An unusually large number of stories have come down to us concerning the early members of the Lesnett family. Family members provided important information in an 1889 history of Allegheny County, an account of a 1912 family reunion and the book “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” by Daniel M. Bennett, which was published in 1931. All three items might trace their information back to a single original source; however, it seems likely that they represent two similar, but difference traditions. These three sources agree on the major points of the family’s history, but conflict on several details, as I indicate in the footnotes. It appears very likely that the basic information is reliable. The longevity of people with good memories may have played a role in the survival of this information. The account of the 1912 reunion mentions that one member of the family had lived to the age of 104, which would have provided a solid link to the era of Christian Lesnett, who died in 1807. In addition, the 1931 genealogy mentions people who remembered Christian’s eldest son Frederick, who died in 1830.
Christian Lesnett immigrated to America in 1752, according to the Lesnett genealogy. As was the case with many Germans, his name probably was anglicized. It appears in a variety of ways, including: Lisnett, Listnet and Lesneet. Whether any of these represents the original German spelling is unknown.
Also aboard the ship that carried Christian to America was a young married couple. During the stormy 90-day voyage across the Atlantic, the husband died and the wife, Christianna, gave birth to a girl, Agnes, who is often listed by the nickname Nancy. (3)
The colonists landed in Baltimore and moved west to Frederick, Md., where they settled, according to family tradition.
Within a few years, Christian married Christianna. Her maiden name and the name of her first husband are unknown. Tradition holds that Christian adopted Nancy, who later married John Vance and James Morrow. Christian’s “step Daughter Nancy Vance” is the first heir mentioned in his will after Christianna. (4)
According to family tradition, Christian was a cabinetmaker and had a shop in Frederick. But after a few years, the shop burned down and the Lesnetts moved northwest to Hagerstown.
It should be noted that extensive searches of records from the Frederick and Hagerstown areas have failed to turn up any reference to the Lesnett family. In addition, several important details of this account conflict with statements made in Francis Lesnett’s application for a Revolutionary War pension. That document states that Francis was born in 1759 in Pittsburgh. If that’s so, it raises questions about much of the following account.
Although the French and Indian War was over, hostilities still flared up at times. In 1763, Pontiac, an Ottowa chief, organized a series of surprise attacks at strategic points from Detroit to Fort Pitt, the present site of Pittsburgh. The English sent a relief force under Col. Henry Bouquet to western Pennsylvania. The force included some rangers from Maryland but was primarily made up of British regulars, many of whom were recruited in the American colonies. (5) Christian joined this force and was assigned to help repair and defend the wagons, according to the Lesnett genealogy.
The force traveled along the Forbes Road until Aug. 5, when it was attacked by Native Americans at Bushy Run, about 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The British forces held off several attacks on the first day. On the second day, Col. Bouquet’s men faked a retreat and drew the Indians into a trap. The Native Americans were decimated and the soldiers made it safely to Fort Pitt.
While the little army was stationed at Fort Pitt, Christian saw the possibilities of the country. After a peace treaty was signed in 1768, he took the first opportunity to settle there.
When Christian returned to western Pennsylvania in 1769, he brought his two oldest sons – Frederick and Frank – and a man named Gillion, or Richard Gilson. (6) They cleared the land, built a cabin and planted rye, turnips and corn. In the fall, the men returned to Maryland to gather their families. However, Christian was detained as a witness in a lawsuit and they were unable to travel to western Pennsylvania until the following spring. The boys stayed on the homestead that winter.
During this time, the area surrounding Pittsburgh was claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Both colonies encouraged settlement and established local governments – Pennsylvania called the area Westmoreland County and Virginia organized it into West Augusta, Ohio and Yohogania counties. Toward the end of the Revolution, Pennsylvania was granted most of the land and the rest is now part of West Virginia. (7)
Many of the settlers favored Virginia because of it allowed more land to be claimed. Family tradition recorded in “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” says the Lesnetts favored Virginia and they were very upset when the territory was granted to Pennsylvania. The Lesnetts appear in Yohogania County, Va., court records. (8)
At this time, most land was claimed through “tomahawk claims,” and Christian used this method, according to the Lesnett genealogy. This was done by deadening a few trees near a spring and marking the bark of others with the initial of the person staking the claim. Christian claimed 1,000 acres but under Pennsylvania law was able to retain only 414 acres, 20 perch. A 400-acre warranty for Christian and a 150-acre one for his son Francis are dated Sept. 3 and 16, 1785, respectively. (9) However, Christian’s warranty was disputed. A notice in the Pittsburgh Gazette reported in 1797: “John Campbell enters a caveat against granting a patent to Christian Lesnet on his warrant dated 3 Sept 1785, for a tract of land in Washington county, alledging, that he the said Campbell hath an older Virginia certificate for the same. The 1st Monday in October next is appointed for a hearing of the parties on this caveat, 30 days notice being given.” (10) However, Christian’s claim prevailed and he obtained a patent for the land on Feb. 13, 1800, according to the Lesnett genealogy, which includes a copy of the patent. Many of the early settlers named their property and Christian named his land “Berlin.” (11)
The area in which Christian settled later became South Fayette Township in Allegheny County. “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pa.,” published in 1889, credits him with being the township’s first permanent white settler. “History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,” published in 1876, agrees and says, “He emigrated from Germany to Baltimore, Maryland, and came from there to South Fayette before 1770.” (12) The Lesnetts appear in the records of several Pennsylvania counties because of changing boundaries. Their property fell within the boundaries of Washington County when it was formed in 1781 and within the boundaries of Allegheny County when it was formed in 1789.
The disagreement over the land patent wasn’t the only dispute that involved the Lesnetts. The Yohogania County court records contain other references to legal proceedings. In the July 27, 1778, court session, records note that “Recognizance of Christian Lestnett and wife, Christian Lestnett Jun. Frederick Lestnett, Francis Lestnett and Stoffel Lestnett was Returned and no prosecutors appearing Ordered to be Continued.” In 1779, the records mention that the case of Springer v Listnett was dismissed. Neither case’s circumstances or origins are mentioned in the records. (13)
During the spring of 1781, controversy erupted in the settlements around Pittsburgh concerning the military situation. Christn Lisnit and Francis Lisnit appear among the signers of a petition to the Pennsylvania executive council complaining about “the uncommon Stretches of power uniformly pursued and now adopted, by Colonel Brodhead Commanding in this Department.” The petition asks that Col. Daniel Brodhead and his quartermaster be replaced, citing rights violations, corruption by the quartermaster and neglect of the area’s defenses. The petition sprang from a dispute between Brodhead and a large number of his officers, led by Col. John Gibson. Brodhead ordered Gibson arrested on Aug. 30. On Sept. 17, Gen. George Washington ordered Brodhead to resign and placed Gibson in command of Fort Pitt until Brodhead’s replacement could arrive. (14)
The military situation was of great concern to the settlers because Native Americans presented a serious threat during the Revolutionary War. The British and their sympathizers, such as the infamous Simon Girty, spurred the Indians to attack American settlers. They provided weapons and bought scalps as proof of successful raids. The conflict took on a ruthless character as atrocities were committed by each side. Settlements were protected by a combination of militia patrols and a string of forts and blockhouses. Families fled to these blockhouses as soon as word of an Indian raid spread. (15)
The Lesnett genealogy describes one such raid as follows (with some of the grammar and spelling corrected): The settlers in those days lived in great danger of their lives, as the Indians were continually at war. The families had to frequently fly to blockhouses or forts. While the women and children would remain under their protection, the men would scour the country and drive out or exterminate them [the Indians]. Grandmother Isabell (Frederick’s wife) once described how they had to flee to the blockhouse at Morgan’s place (now Morganza). This was the home of Geo. Morgan, a prominent man in his day. [Col. Morgan was an Indian agent and relatively wealthy.] The Indians besieged the place all day. She helped the women make the bullets, which the men shot. She said things looked helpless, and they thought the Indians would surely break in, when assistance arrived from Elizabethtown, and the Indians were driven off. [The genealogy doesn’t provide a date for this attack.]
Since such attacks threatened everyone on the frontier, each man was expected to serve in the militia. The Lesnetts were very active in this effort, with their names appearing frequently in Washington County’s militia rolls in 1781 and 1782, the closing years of the Revolution. It is likely that they also served in Virginia’s militia before 1781, but detailed records are not available for that state’s units from the Pittsburgh area. Because three of the Lesnetts had similar first names, it is difficult to determine how often Christian actually served during the Revolutionary War. Many of the relevant records list the name “Christian” and would appear to refer to the father – if the birth years listed in the Lesnett genealogy are to be trusted. The father would have been about 53 in 1781, and the son only 12. The genealogy states that the younger Christian learned to use a rifle at an early age and tagged along on some sort of military excursion while young but that would seem to have been after the Revolution – unless he was actually born before 1769. I have not found any primary sources that state when he was born. Other militia rosters refer to “Christy,” which was a nickname that was used by Christian and by his son Christopher. Most of these references are likely to refer to the son since “Christian” appears in so many other cases – including one case in which both are listed on the same expedition to Sandusky, Ohio. (16)
The best indications of service by the father are listings in “Pennsylvania Archives” for duty in Capt. Andrew Swearingen’s company of rangers from March 10 to Nov. 5, 1781 and in Capt. David Reed’s company in June 1782. (17)
The service in Swearingen’s ranger unit included extensive campaigning following Indians raids that swept across much of western Pennsylvania. (18) Rangers were generally skilled woodsmen and fighters who patrolled the frontiers, searching for Native American raiding parties.
The service with Reed’s unit was on the ill-fated campaign led by Col. William Crawford in June 1782. Christian and two of his sons Francis and Christopher – listed as Christy – were on this mission against the Native American villages near the Sandusky River in Ohio, believed to be the source of attacks on the settlements. However, the Indians received word of the troops’ approach and were able to evacuate the villages. A battle erupted and the militiamen held their own during fighting on June 4. But the next day, the Native Americans were re-enforced and Crawford decided to withdraw. While the militiamen prepared to retreat, the Indians attacked and scattered them. Many were captured and killed. Col. Crawford was captured, scalped and burned at the stake. (19) The Lesnetts returned safely, according to the muster rolls in the “Pennsylvania Archives.”
Christopher and Francis continue to appear in Pennsylvania militia records after the war’s end. In fact, peace between Britain and the United States slowed but didn’t end the raids. Native Americans continued to be seen as a threat until 1794, when they were vanquished by troops under Gen. Anthony Wayne. (20)
After the war, Christian appears in Cecil Township in the Washington County tax records for 1783. He owned 400 acres, six horses, four cows and five sheep. (21) By 1787, the Lesnetts may have become fixtures in their community. The newspaper notice for the marriage of his daughter Sophia to William Rowley, states Christian is an “eminent farmer in Washington County.” (22)
In 1790, Christian Lesnett appear in the census under Allegheny County. His household contained four males age 16 and older, one male younger than 16 and two females.
Soon after this, farmers in western Pennsylvania protested taxes on whiskey, which was a primary source of income for the pioneers. Whiskey – distilled from the grain grown by western farmers – was easily transported to eastern markets. The most dramatic encounter of the Whiskey Insurrection was on July 15, 1794, when rebels burned some buildings at the farm of the man responsible for collecting the tax, Gen. John Neville, who lived near the Lesnetts. According to the Lesnett genealogy, a group of rebels passed the field the Lesnetts were working and asked them to join. The Lesnetts replied that Neville was a neighbor and they didn’t want to get into a squabble that might make things unpleasant.
Christian appears to have remained relatively prosperous into later life. His estate inventory lists 32 notes for loans to family and neighbors. They total about 455 (it’s hard to say whether this amount is in pounds or dollars but pounds are the denomination used in his will).
He also appears to have maintained his health. Although he was in his late 70s when he wrote his will in June 1806, Christian mentions that he was in “Perfect health.”
Christian died in 1807, before Oct. 10, when his will was proved. (23) Christianna died in 1813. They are said to be buried in St. Luke’s Cemetery, Woodville, Pa., in a plot that is under the present church building.
(1) This date comes from “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” by Daniel M. Bennett, page 7. “Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Book” Vol. 83, page 40, and Vol. 159, page 278, say he was born in 1726. The original source of this information is unknown in each case. Some of this account follows Bennett’s 1931 Lesnett genealogy, which relied heavily on family sources that appear to be unavailable today. An additional source that confirms some of the basic information in Bennett’s genealogy is the account of a 1912 Lesnett reunion, which was held in South Fayette Township, Pa. This was obviously transcribed from a contemporary newspaper but I have not yet located the original version. The transcription is available on the Internet at: ftp://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/pa/allegheny/history/family/lesn0001.txt The account mentions that D.M. Bennett was elected vice president of the family’s “officers” so it’s no surprise that the two sources would agree on most points. (2) Children – except Christian Jr. – are listed in Christian’s will in Allegheny County Will Book 1, page 253. The will is cited in “Will Abstracts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Will Books I through V,” compiled by Helen L. Harriss, pages 18 and 19, and is transcribed in “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” page 17. Christian Jr. is listed in a court case in “Virginia Court Records in Southwestern Pennsylvania; Records of the District of West Augusta and Ohio and Yohogania Counties, Virginia, 1775-1780,” by Boyd Crumrine, page 248. The names of the daughters’ husbands come from administration papers from Allegheny County Account Book 7, Page 114, which are transcribed in the Lesnett genealogy. (The transcriptions in the genealogy are reliable although the spelling and capitalization has been standardized in some cases.) That of Rowley is confirmed in “Pittsburgh, Pa., Gazette Genealogical Gleanings 1786-1820, Vol. I,” by Mark H. Welchley, page 59. The husbands of Christianna and Sophia, and the wife of Francis – Rachel Kitten – are mentioned in Francis’ Revolutionary War Pension application – 22.661. The application also mentions the birth dates of Francis and Christianna. These dates don’t agree with the date provided in secondary sources. (3) Their arrival in America was in 1745, according to “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvnaia.,” by A. Warner & Co., page 484. This account was published in 1889 and could represent a clearer recollection of the events than the genealogy, which was published 42 years later. Although Nancy isn’t mentioned in the will abstract, Christian’s will lists Nancy Vance as an heir. Administration papers from Allegheny County Account Book 7, Page 114, are transcribed in the Lesnett genealogy and they indicate that Nancy was the wife of John Vance. (4) The 1931 genealogy says they wed in 1757. “Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Book,” Vol. 83, says the marriage was in 1751. Vol. 159 of the “Lineage Book” says it was in 1747. The source of the information in both of these books is unknown. “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County” says “about 1752.” (5) “The Battle of Bushy Run,” by C.M. Bomberger. (6) The genealogy mentions Gillion. Richard Gilson comes from “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pa.” A George Gilson lived near Christian in 1790, according to that year’s U.S. census. (7) “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pa.,” pages 61 to 74. (8) “Records of the District of West Augusta, Ohio County and Yohogania County, Va.,” by Richard Loveless, page 248. (9) “Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 3, Vol. 26,page 576. (10) “Pittsburgh Gazette Abstracts, 1797-1803,” compiled by Clara E. Duer, page 14. (11) “Early History of The Peters Creek Valley and the Early Settlers,” compiled by Noah Thompson, page 57. (12) “A Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, Pa.,” page 22. “History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,” by Samuel W. Durant, page 151. (13) “Virginia Court Records in Southwestern Pennsylvania; Records of the District of West Augusta and Ohio and Yohogania Counties, Virginia, 1775-1780,” by Boyd Crumrine. The first case is on page 248 and the second is on page 327. (14) The petition is recorded in “Frontier Retreat on the Upper Ohio, 1779-1781,” by Louise Phelps Kellogg, pages 363-370. The general outline of the dispute and its impact comes from “The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania,” pages 860-861, and “Fort McIntosh: Its Times and Men,” by Daniel Agnew, page 25. This book was written in 1893. (15) “The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania,” by C. Hale Sipe. (16) The Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books cite service in Capt. Stockley’s company from 1778 to 1783 in Vol. 83, page 40, and in Capt. Charles Bilderback’s company in Vol. 159, page 278. However, these older DAR volumes are known to contain errors. I have been unable to locate a muster roll showing service in Stockley’s company. The only mention I could find for Bilderback’s company says “Christy Lisnet,” which probably indicates Christopher or perhaps the younger Christian, though that would seem unlikely since he would have been only 13 or so at the time. This reference is in “Pennsylvania Archives” Series 6, Vol. 2, page 389. The name “Christian Lesnit” appears in Capt. Reed’s company on the same expedition and this reference is probably for the father. (17) Service with Swearingen is in “Pennsylvania Archives” Series 6, Vol. 2, page 94, and service with Reed is in the same volume on page 398. (18) “The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania,” page 728. (19) “A History of Northwestern Ohio,” by Nevin O. Winter, pages 29 to 42. (20) “Indian Wars of Pennsylvania,” pages 710 to 715. (21) “Washington County Pennsylvania Tax Lists,” compiled by Raymond Martin Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, page 29. (22) “The People and Times of Western Pennsylvania,” Special Publication No. 5 of the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, compiled by Clara E. Duer, page 12. (23) “DAR Lineage Book” Vols. 83 and 159 list his year of death as 1804. However, the will is dated June 27, 1806 and proved on Oct. 10, 1807, according to the will abstracts.
FREDERICK and ISABEL LESNETT
Frederick Lesnett was born in 1758 in Frederick, Md., to Christian and Christianna Lesnett. (1)
Married Isabell Wilson. Isabell was born in 1776, the daughter of an Episcopal minister who served St. Luke’s Church at Woodville, Pa., according to a 1931 Lesnett genealogy. (2)
Christopher, born 1797.
John, born Feb. 29, 1800.
Margaret, born Oct. 14, 1803. Married Robert Christy.
Nancy, born 1805. Married Dell Weaver.
Wilson, born 1808.
Elizabeth, born 1813. Married Thomas Weaver.
Francis, born May 18, 1815.
Arabella, born 1820. Married John Ramsey.
According to the book “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” Frederick was the first boy born in Frederick, Md. Because of this, the town’s founder asked that the boy be named after him and his town. The founder gave Frederick a silver ring, with a large “F” set on the top – used in those times to seal letters. (4)
In 1769, according to the genealogy, Christian Lesnett staked a claim on land in western Pennsylvania. He traveled west with his two eldest sons – Frederick and Francis – and a neighbor named Gillion, or Gilson. (5) They built a cabin, cleared some land and planted rye, turnips and corn. In the fall, the men left the two boys to hold the claim, and returned to Hagerstown, Md. They expected to return with the remaining family members before winter set in, but Christian was detained as a witness in a lawsuit. The snow came early and deep in the mountains, so they were unable to return until the following April.
The two boys spent the long winter alone. They had to hunt and fish for their food. They saw no other people. On account of this hardship, Frederick suffered from rheumatism the rest of this life.
A few years later, according to the genealogy, Frederick and a number of men started down Chartiers Creek from Canonsburg, taking a boatload of flour to New Orleans. While polling down the Ohio River, they saw wild turkey along the bank at a bend near Wellsburg. Frederick and another man got out and started after them. While thus engaged, they heard the danger signal from the boat, warning them of Indians. They turned their canoe and headed back to the boat when the Indians opened fire. One of the bullets penetrated the canoe and struck Frederick in the calf, pressing the buckskin legging far into the flesh, making a painful and dangerous wound. None of the rest were hurt. When they reached Wheeling, they took Frederick ashore. He soon recovered and returned home afoot. The others continued down the river, but never returned because they were killed by the Spaniards, who controlled Louisiana. Some years later, when the United States bought Louisiana, a bounty was paid to the men’s survivors for the lost lives and the flour.
During the Revolutionary War, most men on the frontier served in militia units. These units protected the settlements by responding to Indian raids, patrolling in search of war parties or going on expeditions against Indian villages. The Lesnett men – aside from Frederick – appear to have been very enthusiastic about militia duty because their names appear on the rolls numerous times. Concerning Federick, the Lesnett genealogy states that he “seemed to have been more of a home boy than were his brothers, or else he suffered so much from the rhumatism he had contracted, the first winter he lived in this vicinity, that he was unable to travel about. We do not find his name on any of the war record as are his brothers.”
However, Frederick actually is listed in one militia roster from the Revolutionary War. He appears, along with brother Francis, as a private in Capt. Charles Reed’s Company in the 4th Battalion of Washington County’s militia, which was “ordered to rendezvous the 1st Day of March 1, 1782.” (6)
The activation of units from the 4th Battalion followed a series of Indian raids that killed and captured a number of settlers in the Pittsburgh area. There is nothing on the pages of “Pennsylvania Archive” to indicate that this was anything other than a typical militia rendezvous intended to pursue raiders. However, several researchers have suggested that these units were among those that ended up committing one of the greatest atrocities of the war in the West. The date of March 1 corresponds with the time Col. David Williamson set out on an expedition that ended up slaughtering about 100 peaceful Delaware Indians who had converted to Christianity. (7) Despite the timing, there is no proof that the Lesnetts participated in the attack on the Delawares. In fact, it seems unlikely. First, the attackers quickly realized the nature of their deed and initiated a sort of cover-up to prevent prosecution. As a result, the attacker failed to submit a roster of participants. That would seem to indicate that rosters that were submitted were for units that performed legitimate service on the frontier in the wake of the initial attacks. In addition, the editors of “Pennsylvania Archives” compiled a list of suspected participants and the Lesnetts don’t appear on it.
Aside from the listing in militia records, Frederick appears in several tax records during the 1780s. He is listed as a single man owning no property or livestock in Cecil Township, Washington County, in the 1781, 1783 and 1784 tax lists. Frederick also received a warrant for 65 acres of land in Washington County on Oct. 11, 1787. (8)
In 1796, Frederick married Isabell Wilson, according to the Lesnett genealogy.
“He is described,” according to the genealogy, “by those who recollect him, as a large broad shoulder man, (a characteristic of Lesnetts) and in his later days always carried a cane. His hair was light, and hung down around his shoulders, as were the custom of those times, the top of his head was bald, and he kept his face cleanly shaved, he always wore a ‘red wamis’ or waist coat, he was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and was noted for his sobriety ...”
“[He] was a good provider, you never heard him scold or complain; no odds how many were loafing around or enjoying his hospitality, everybody was welcome at Uncle Frederick’s but Aunt Isabell would get out of humor and give all around a good hacking. …”
“An instance of a very disgusting character once occurred at the home of Frederick Listnett, that very much incensed him. A neighbor came to his house, and after being their a short time, apparently took very sick, the man thought he was going to die, and solicited Frederick to send for the Rev. John Clark, instead of sending one of the boys he went himself, sent one of the boys for the Doctor and the other for the man’s divorced wife, after they all got there, the doctor could not find much the matter with the man, after a while the man acknowledged he wanted to have his wife reconciled to him, Federick was very indignant when he found he had been made a fool of, and was willing to give him a sound thrashing, after a good deal of solicitation, by the good preacher, and a word of sympathy from Aunt Isabel peace was restored and the couple were re-married at once, but Uncle Frederick never got over it.”
Frederick’s will – which was written on March 8, 1830, less than a month before his death – mentions that he was “weak in body but of sound memory.”
The papers from Frederick’s estate show a relatively successful farmer, with a good deal more livestock than many farmers in the region had at that time. Among the possessions listed in the inventory were three mares, a colt, five cows, two steers, a yoke of oxen, a small ox, two calves, eight first-choice sheep, 12 other sheep, five lambs, a sow with four pigs, 24 hogs, “1 Lot” of chickens, geese, turkeys and ducks, bees, much grain and assorted farming implements.
Frederick died April 6, 1830. Both Frederick and Isabell are buried in Bethany Presbyterian Church Cemetery at the mouth of Miller Run, near Bridgeville, Pa.
CHRISTOPHER and MARGARET LESNETT
Christopher Lesnett was born Dec. 6, 1797 in western Pennsylvania to Frederick and Isabel Lesnett. (1)
Christy married Margaret Van Gorder. She was the daughter of Jacob Van Gorder and was born about 1800. (2)
Nancy Jane, born about 1826. Married a Brown.
Elizabeth, born about 1828.
Dell W., born March 18, 1831.
Sarah Rachael, born about 1834. Married a Click. (Listed as both Click and Cleip in Christy’s estate papers.)
Robert C., born about 1836.
Margaret. Married a Majors.
Isabella. Married a Wright.
Mary Emeline. Married a man named McIlrain.
(The book “Christian Lesnett Genealogy” also mentions a John Boyce and a Rachel, who died in infancy. The genealogy also says that Elizabeth married a man named Houch, but that may have happened after Christy wrote his will in December 1865.)
In the 1830 Census, Christian Lesnet is listed in North Sewickley Township, Beaver County, Pa. His household contained one male age 30-39, one female under 5, two females 5-9, one female 10-14 and one female 20-29.
In 1835, Christy purchased some land in Beaver County on the New Castle-Zelienople Road. In 1845, Christy purchased additional land. He seems to have been a successful farmer with land in Franklin Township, Beaver County, and what later became Perry Township, Lawrence County, Pa. At his death, Christy owned about 347 acres, six seep, two calves, one heifer, three cows, two horses, two yearling colts, 15 pairs of chickens and “lot of hogs.” (4)
Christy Lesnet appears on the tax rolls for Perry Township, Beaver County, in 1846 to 1848. Perry Township later became part of Lawrence County. (5)
In the 1850 Census, Christy Lisnet appears in the Perry Township, Lawrence County. He was a farmer who owned real estate valued at $3,500. His household contained his wife Margaret; Nancy, age 24; Elizabeth, 22; Delweaver, 19; Sarah, 16; Robert, 14; and Mary, 11.
In the 1860 Census, Chris. Listnett, is listed as a farmer in Franklin Township, Beaver County. He owned real estate valued at $5,500 and personal property $700. His household contained his wife Margt. and Mary, age 21.
The 1931 genealogy of the Lesnett family gives the following account of the lifestyle of early Americans. It comes from an item on Christy’s sister, Elizabeth, but is applicable to all those of the time.
Like all early settlers, the Lesnetts had to depend upon primitive ways of getting along. All farmers in those days made their own soap, but lye was essential to soaponify the grease. To procure this, wood ashes were collected in a barrel. Small holes were drilled in the bottom and water poured in. The water would filter through the ashes and gather in a vessel below. This was the lye. They used bark from a sassafras tree to perfume the soap.
Clothes were all made by the women, who were experts in the use of the needle. The settlers grew flax and raised sheep for their wool. They had to create their own dyes: for brown, they used walnut shells; for red, the madder root from the woods; and other vegetables to for other colors popular at the time. For their starch, they scraped white potatoes and boiled them, obtaining a clear liquid which they could use to stiffen up their clothes. The maple trees produced sugar water, which was slowly boiled down for syrup. A longer boiling would produce sugar. All fruits – apples, berries, etc. – were dried to preserve them. Baking was done in “Dutch ovens” and later in an outside oven. Other cooking was done over a wood fire. (6)
Christy does not appear to have learned to write because his will is signed with an “X.” When he wrote his will on Dec. 7, 1865, he said he was “very weak in strength but Sound in mind.”
Christy died in Jan. 23, 1866. Margaret died Nov. 10, 1883. They are buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Perry Township, Lawrence County. (7)
(1) Christy is named in his father’s will in Allegheny County, Pa., Will Book 3, Page 406, which is cited in “Will Abstracts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Will Books I through V,” compiled by Helen L. Harriss, page 77. Birth dates comes from “Lawrence County Cemeteries: Book 8: Perry and Washington Townships,” compiled by Dwight E. Copper, page 15. (2) Margaret’s father is identified in Beaver County Will Book B, page 128. Her approximate birth year comes from “Lawrence County Cemeteries,” which says she was 83 when she died in 1883. That agrees with the 1850 Census of Perry Township, Lawrence County, Pa. (3) Christy’s children are identified in his will in Lawrence County, Pa., Testamentary File L, No. 21. Dell’s birth date comes from his Civil War pension file – Invalid Pension 948910 and Revised Certificate Number 798.263. The other children’s birth years come from the 1850 Census of Perry Township, Lawrence County. Mary Emeline is probably the Mary listed as 11 in the 1850 Census. (4) The 1835 purchase is mentioned in Beaver County Deed Book, 24, page 121, which records the sale of 3 acres in 1844. The 1845 purchase is mentioned in Beaver County Deed Book 163, page 367, which records the tract’s later sale by Christy’s son Dell to George W. Bowers. The rest of the information in the paragraph is recorded in Christy’s will. (5) “Tax Records 1841-1850 Beaver County, Pennsylvania,” by Helen G. Clear and Mae. H. Winne, page 3. (6) “Christian Lesnett Genealogy,” by Daniel M. Bennett, pages 30 and 31.
Dell W. Lesnett farmhouse in Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa., about 1890.
DELL and EMELINE LESNETT
Dell W. Lesnett was born March 18, 1831 in Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa., to Christopher and Margaret (Van Gorder) Lesnett. (1)
Married Emeline Potter. (See below)
Permilla, born Feb. 14, 1859. Married George W. Bowers, and later Ernest Wehman.
Olive Jane, born about April 1870.
John B., born Nov. 13, 1873.
The 1900 Census of Beaver County records that Emeline gave birth to 12 children, but only three survived. Of these, John was deaf and Olive may have been deaf, according to family tradition. The 1880 Census does not mention that John or Olive had any disabilities, even though there is a question that specifically addresses deafness. Both the 1900 and 1920 census record that John could speak English so it seems likely that his deafness developed after infancy. John’s World War I draft registration indicates he was “decrepit” and an “imbecile.” In 1917, Olive was appointed trustee for John and, in January 1921, John’s mother was given control of his property because he had “become so weak in mind and so mentally defective that he is unable to take care of his own property.” (2a) On May 16, 1923, John was killed by when a tornado swept through the farm belonging to his brother-in-law, Charles Bowers. (2b)
On March 27, 1856, Dell married Emeline Potter in Butler County, Pa. They were married by the Rev. Robert McCracken. Emeline was born Aug. 12 1833 in Pennsylvania to William and Mary Potter. (3)
The 1860 Census lists D.W. Listnett as a farmer in Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa. He owned real estate valued at $2,2,50 and personal property valued at $675. His household contained his wife Emeline and Permilia, age 1..
During the Civil War, Dell was served in Company G of the 168th Pennsylvania Drafted Militia Infantry Regiment from Oct. 16, 1862 to July 24, 1863. (4) This nine- month unit never faced the enemy.
“History of Pennsylvania Volunteers” records the brief history of the 168th Regiment: “This regiment was raised in the counties of Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, Beaver, Allegheny, and Erie. The men rendezvoused at Camp Howe, near Pittsburgh, during the latter part of October, 1862, where the companies were organized, and the following field officers were chosen: Joseph Jack, of Westmoreland county, Colonel; John Murphy, of Washington county, Lieutenant Colonel; John J. Cree, of Fayette county, Major. Clothing, arms, and accoutrements, and the State colors, were received on the 2d of December, and on the evening of he same day, the regiment started for the front.
“Upon its arrival at Fortress Monroe, it was ordered to Newport News, where it remained some two weeks, with the command of General Corcorn. It was thence ordered to Suffolk, Virginia, and was there assigned to Spinola’s Brigade, subsequently known as the Keystone Brigade. From Suffolk, the brigade was ordered to Newbern, North Carolina, whither it proceeded by way of the Chowan River, arriving on the 1st of January, 1863. The regiment was here thoroughly drilled, and the officers instructed in the duties. It was out upon several expeditions against the enemy, but did not come to battle. Soon after the retreat of the enemy under General Hill from before Little Washington, which he had been closely besieging, the Keystone Brigade was ordered thither to relieve the garrison. Here it remained until the 28th of June, when it was sent to Fortress Monroe, and thence to White House, to cooperate with forces under General Dix, in a demonstration towards Richmond.
“For nearly a week the troops were out upon this duty, and here the intelligence was first received of the invasion of Pennsylvania. A strong desire was at once manifested by the members of the Keystone Brigade, to be led to the support of the Union army, who expressed a willingness to remain beyond the period for which they were to serve. This wish was gratified, and the brigade was sent to Harper’s Ferry, where it occupied Maryland Heights. The battle at Gettysburg had, in the meantime, been fought, and as the army under Meade approached the Potomac in pursuit of Lee, the regiment joined it at Boonesboro. After the enemy had escaped into Virginia, the regiment was ordered for duty to Middletown, Maryland, and a few days later to Harrisburg, where, on the 25th of July, it was mustered out of service.” (5)
Although he never saw a major battle, Dell seems to have been proud of his service in the war. In a photograph taken at least 30 years later, a long-bearded Dell can be seen wearing his soldier’s cap.
After the war, Dell settled down to farming again. In 1866, he inherited his father’s farm in Franklin Township. (6)
In the 1870 Census, Dell Lesnet is listed as a farmer in Franklin Township. He owned real estate valued at $6,000 and personal property valued at $1,000. His household contained his wife Emaline, Permella, age 11, and Olive J., 4 months.
Dell was farming and raising livestock in Franklin Township in 1876. (7)
In the late 1870s, the family moved to Caroline County, Md. When his daughter Permilla married George W. Bower, in December 1879, she is listed as a resident of Caroline County. The county’s grantee index shows that Dell W. Lesnett purchased land from Richard C. Carter in 1880. (7a) In the 1880 Census, Dell W. Lesnett is listed as a farmer in the Greensboro District No. 2 in Caroline County. His household contained Emeline, Olive, 10, daughter; John, 6, son; and Joseph Morton, 30 cousin.
Before 1890, the family moved back to Franklin Township because Dell W. Lessnett is listed in that year’s special schedule of Civil War veterans. It records his service in the 168th Pennsylvania.
Dell’s health apparently began to fail in the 1880s. On Sept. 16, 1890, he filed for an invalid pension, which was available because he had served in the Civil War. His application said “that he is wholly unable to earn a support by manual labor by reason of bronchitis, disease of the kidney, lumbago with sciatica.” A medical examination on Feb. 14, 1892 found he suffered from muscular rheumatism of the back and left hip and disease of the respiratory organs. It says he had “been coughing for 3 years” and “he walks a little lame and has a cane.” The doctor said the rheumatism “will always unfit him for hard work and in bad weather at times lay him up.”
The pension file also provides some physical description of Dell. He was 5 feet, 8 1/2 inches tall and weighed 157 pounds. He had blue eyes a light complexion and light hair (although he was old by this time and the notation may simply indicate it was gray).
In 1890 tax records for Franklin Township, Dell W. Lesnett is listed as a farmer, and he was taxed for 174 acres, two horses and four cows. (7b)
On March 17, 1898, Dell sold his 105-acre farm in Franklin Township to his daughter Permilla and her husband George Bower for $1,300.
The 1900 Census of Franklin Township lists Dell Lesnett as a farmer. In addition to his wife Emeline, his household included Olive J., daughter; John B., son; Hosia, 6-month-old grandson; and John Greib, a 15-year-old boarder and day laborer.
Emeline died Jan. 11, 1913. (8)
In September 1915, Dell suffered three broken ribs when he was “thrown from a rig that he was driving.” A notice in the Sept. 24 edition of the New Castle News indicates that he was “reported to be improving. On account of Mr. Lesnett’s advanced age, grave fears were at first felt for his recovery.”
Early the next year, Dell apparently sold rights to a local oil and gas company to drill for gas on his property. On Feb. 10, 1916, the New Castle News reported: “With bits eating into the earth more than 300 feet from the surface, the local officials of the Ellwood City Oil and Gas Co. are anxiously awaiting developments in the first ‘wild cat’ well for oil or gas drilled in this vicinity. Prospects are bright for a flow of gas or oil.
“The ‘wild cat’ well of the company is situated on the D.W. Lesnett farm south of this city and is about 1,000 feet from the big gas well now owned by the American Gas company. It is believed that the local company will be successful in their search for oil.
“Several hundred acres are now under lease by the company and more wells will be sunk providing the first well makes any showing.”
The drilling appears to have revealed a natural gas deposit. On March 11, the New Castle News reported that the Ellwood City company was planning to sell its holdings in the “Lesnett Gas Well”to the Americans Gas company. The newspaper article says, “The new well is one of the largest in the vicinity and is flowing steadily.” It also states, “More wells will be sunk on the Lesnett farm this spring, work to be started as soon as the weather grows warmer. It is believed that a good gas field can be developed in this region.”
It seems likely that the gas deal is responsible for later family accounts of the Lesnett family being relatively wealthy.
However, Dell does not appear to have enjoyed any profits from the gas. He died March 4, 1916, “following a general breakdown in health due to advance age.” (9)
In his will, he left the bulk of his estate to John, Olive and Olive’s son, Hosea. (10) John and Olive are listed as living “at home” in Dell’s death notice.
Hosea was born in December 1899 and was the son of George Bower. (11) The 1920 Census lists the 20-year-old Hosea as the head of the household containing John, his uncle, and Olive, his mother. Olive is listed as single, although the census taker initially marked her as married. They lived in Franklin Township beside Charles Bowers, the son of George and Permilla. During the 1930s, Hosea moved to Washington State with his half-brother Dell Bower, another son of George and Permilla’s.
On Jan. 22, 1921, the Beaver County court appointed Permilla guardian of the property of her brother John, who had “become so weak of mind and so mentally dfective that he is unable to take care of his own property, and in consequence thereof is liable to dissipate or lose the same and to become the victim of designing persons.” (12)
On May 16, 1923, a tornado swept through the farm belonging to Permilla’s son Charles Bowers. It flattened the barn, killing John and all the animals. The Ellwood City Ledger reported: “The dead man was John Lessnet of Camp Run, a victim of the terrific wind who was buried beneath the ruins of the barn of his farm when it was torn from its foundation and scattered to the winds in pieces.” The force of the wind also knocked down other houses and buildings in the area. (13) The New Castle News reported in his obituary on May 18, that John “was killed Tuesday evening by falling timber when the barn was blown over during a severe storm.” It also noted that he “had lived his entire life at the home where his death occurred.”
Olive spent her later years in the Almira Home for Elderly Ladies in New Castle, Pa. She is mentioned as a resident of the home in articles appearing in the New Castle News June 20, 1939, and Oct. 26, 1948.
Dell and Emeline are buried at the English Lutheran cemetery in Zelienople, Pa.
(1) Dell’s date and place of birth come from his Civil War pension file – Invalid Pension 948910 and Revised Certificate Number 798.263. Dell is named as Christopher’s son in his will in Lawrence County, Pa., Testamentary File L, No. 21. Del’s middle name was probably Weaver. The 1850 Census lists as “Delweaver,” age 19, among Christopher’s children. (2) Except for Olive, the names and dates come from Dell’s pension file. The pension file says Olive was born June 21, 1870. However, Olive was listed as 4 months old when the 1870 Census was taken on June 8. (2a) Beaver County, Pa., File No. 7 from December 1917 term and No. 180 of the March 1921 term. (2b) Ellwood City Ledger, 50-years-ago item from May 16, 1973. (3) Marriage information and maiden name come from Dell’s pension file. Margaret’s parents are listed in the 1850 Census for Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa. Her birth date is from the listing for the English Lutheran cemetery in Zelienople in “Butler County Cemetery Inventory, Vol. 4,” page 18. Her birth place comes from the 1900 Census, Beaver County, Pa. (4) Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa., 1890 Census. Bates’ “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers” mistakenly lists him under Company F. He is listed in Bates and in the National Archives as “Dell W. Lesmith,” but his pension is filed under the correct spelling. (5) “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861 to 1865, Vol. IV,” pages 1134 and 1144. (6) Beaver County Deed Book 163, page 367, mentions the inheritance and the later sale of the farm to George W. Bower. (7) “Caldwell’s Illustrated Combination Centennial Atlas of Beaver County, Pa.” (7a) “Caroline County, Maryland, Marriage Licenses 1865-1886,” compiled by Dorothy H. Baird and Louisa A. Scott, found at Caroline County Library in Denton, Md., page 15. Caroline County, Md., General Index, Grantees, from 1851 to 1885, page 371. (7b) “Eastside Beaver County Tax Records 1890,” by Helen G. Clear and Mae H. Winne, Publishers of Beaver County Records, 1998, page 2. (8) “Butler County Cemetery Inventory.” (9) Date of death comes from Beaver County Register’s Docket 11, page 449, and “Butler County Cemetery Inventory.” Dell’s pension file says he died March 5, 1916. Velma Holfelder in 1990 said his buggy was hit by a car. However, a notice of his death that appears in the New Castle News from March 6, 1916, indicates that he died “following a general breakdown in health due to advanced age.” It is possible that Velma was thinking of another great-grandparent, Sarah Belles, who did die in a buggy accident. (10) Beaver County Will Book T, page 163. (11) Hosea’s approximate birth date appears in the 1900 Census of Franklin Township, Beaver County, Pa. I have not located a birth record but Bowers family tradition indicates that he was the son of George Bower and Olive Lesnett. The 1900 Census lists “Hosia” as Dell’s grandson. The 1910 Census of Franklin Township lists him as the head of the household containing Olive, who is identified as his mother. (12) Beaver County docket for March Term, 1921, page 117. (13) New Castle News of May 18, 1923. Also Ellwood City Ledger, 50-years-ago item from May 16, 1973.