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


    John McDonald lived near Pittsburgh during the Revolutionary war.
    Married a woman named Johannah. (1)
    Children: (2)
    Rachel – “oldest daugher.”  Married Andrew Nye.
    Ann.  Married a man named Wallace.
    Hannah.  Married a man named Custard.
    Several John McDonalds appear in the Pittsburgh area during the Revolutionary era.  The most prominent was a successful businessman who conducted a ferry and general store in Belmont. (3)   John McDonalds appear in tax and census records in Robinson Township, Nottingham Township, Strabane Township, Chartiers, Smith Township and Peters Township between 1781 and 1792.  Because of changing township names and boundaries, the same person can appear under several jurisdictions over time. (4)
    Our John lived in Peters Township on a track of land called “Donaldson,” which he acquired May 23, 1787, through a patent under the hand of Benjamin Franklin, who was serving as president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania at the time.  According to a later Allegheny County deed, “Donaldson” was on the waters of Peters Creek and the patent was to “John McDaniel,” who willed the land to his son, Thomas. (5)
    Tax records show John listing in Peters Township in 1781, 1783, and 1784.  In 1781, he is listed as owning 100 acres, two horses, two cows and a sheep.  In 1783, he owned 150 acres, three horses and three cows. (6)
    One document that appears to relate to our John – since it’s signed by more than one John McDonald – is a petition signed by settlers in the Pittsburgh area complaining about their military leadership.  During the spring of 1781, controversy erupted in the settlements around Pittsburgh concerning the military situation.  John appears 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. (7)
    John died before Dec. 3, 1792, when his will was received at the Allegheny County Courthouse.  Johannah probably died after that since she was named in the will. (8)
    The will also lists some of John’s possessions at the time of his death.  His livestock consisted of one black cow, one red heifer, two small calves, one small brown cow, one small heifer, one black horse, one small colt, five head of sheep and two swine.  His other possessions were rather humble, including his harvested grain, several pots, a Dutch oven, a saddle,  a glass bottle, three tubs, six cups, four knives and five forks, among other small items.
(1) The first name of John’s wife and his children’s names are recorded in Allegheny County, Pa., Will Book 1, page 63, No. 25.  (2) John’s will.  The daughters’ married surnames are listed.  Rachel’s listed as “Rachel Noy.”  The case for identifying Andrew’s wife with Rachel McDonald is relatively good.  Aside from Andrew Nye, no name with any similarity to Noy or Noie appears in records from the area around Pittsburgh at that time.  In fact, Noi would be a very good English transliteration of the way the name Neu (Nye) sounds when spoken in German and it appears in at least three other records that refer to Andrew. Add the similarity of the name “Katrina Noie” – which also appears in the will – to that of the deceased Catrina and Andrew’s known daughter Catherine and the case looks more solid.  The will also mentions Rachel’s status as the “oldest daughter.”  (3) Previous researchers have sometimes confused the two.  For example, “A Goodly Heritage, Earliest Wills on an American Frontier,” by Ellas Chalfont, pages 30-31, start with our John’s will but follows with information about the John who lived in Belmont.  The small fort known as “McDonald’s Station,” mentioned in “The Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania,” by George D. Albert, page 433, is almost certainly to be linked with the Belmont John.  (4) “Washington County, Pennsylvania, Tax Lists for 1781, 1782, 1784 1793 and Census for 1790,” compiled by Raymond M. Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, which is available at the library of the Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington, D.C.  (5) Allegheny County Deed Book 10, page 332, which records the sale of part of the land by Thomas and his wife, Susana.  A plat map provided by another researcher states that the “Donaldson” tract belonging to “John McDaniel,” covered 224 acres and was based on a warrant  dated June 23, 1785. (6) “Washington County, Pennsylvania, Tax Lists,” pages 275, 79 and 198.  (7) 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.  (8) “Will Abstracts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Will Books I Through V,” compiled by Helen L. Harriss and Elizabeth J. Wall, page 4, gives the date as Dec. 13 but the official date on the will itself says Dec. 3.