Clan MacFarlane Worldwide, Inc.

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Robert McFarland, died 1835, Washington Co., PA

The Old and New Monangahela

by John S. Van Voorhis pub. 1893

pp. 252-254


(This concerns the family of Robert McFarland (d. 1835) and Ann St. Clair McFarland and her brothers Thomas and John, who lived in Monongahela, Washington Co. PA)


Robert McFarland and Anna, his wife, were well-known personages in the Pigeon creek valley. He lived from his youth on the farm originally called Bath Mills, but now well known as the Van Voorhis homestead, lately the residence of Isaac Van Voorhis, deceased, and now owned by his son, Dr. J. S. Van Voorhis. Robert McFarland was a man of fine feeling, and of more than ordinary modest deportment. His attire was always neat and of black cloth. He and his wife were not often absent from church, and in consideration of his excellent Christian character he was at one time elected an elder in the Presbyterian church, but he never felt satisfied to take the ordination vows, prefering to do his part as a private member. His house was a resort for the young and old, and his hospitality knew no bounds. He manufactured salt in the works now gone which stood just below the spring house. The well was of the artesian nature, and to this day water constantly flows from it. With one exception, these were the only salt works in the county. He sold the farm to Isaac Van Voorhis, who took possession April 1, 1834. Although his goods had all gone, Mr. McFarland never left the house until Mr. Van Voorhis arrived, to whom he gave the keys in person. McFarland purchased the house, then unfinished, now occupied by M. Borland and others as store rooms, on Main street, Monongahela City, from Mathew Porter, grandfather of Dr. M. P., Joseph and A. P. Morrison, Esqs. Having completed his dwelling and store room, he purchased a fine stock of new goods in the Eastern cities, where he traveled in the old stage coach and from the fatigue and exposure of which journey he never recovered.

He died in 1835, and his remains were interred in the old graveyard on the hill, where also those of his wife were afterwards laid to rest. His wife was also a McFarland—Ann St. Clair McFarland. She had several brothers, of whom were Thomas and John. The former lived for many years in the old mansion still standing on the bank of the Monongahela, near lock No. 3. He moved to the west and died many years since. This house was in early days well known to the pioneers, being a kind of headquarters for the leading spirits of the day. In this house Major McFarland died, after being wounded at the attack on General Neville's house during the whiskey insurrection of 1794. His remains were interred in Mingo graveyard, and the circumstances attending his death are almost forgotten, save by those who cherish the record of the past.

John, or Uncle Jack, as he was familiarly called, was a man of peculiar traits of character; in demeanor a perfect gentleman, a fine talker, a good philanthrophist, a bachelor of considerable wealth, popular among all classes of the people. He was a merchant by inclination as well as in. fact. He passed many of his latter days in what was then called the far west, in trading among the Indian tribes. In more than one instance he had to abandon his post, barely escaping with his life. At one time he made good his flight by skating on the ice over 20 miles. At another time he was overtaken in his flight by the Indians, and was scalped by them, as they supposed; but to his delight the Indians discovered to their chagrin that it was a false scalp in the form of a wig which Uncle Jack had been accustomed to wear.

He enjoyed that joke (on the Indians) as well as many others of which he was very fond. His many Indian stories seemed to the masses as much exaggerated, but subsequent development of the true Indian character, since his day, give warrant to their truth. At his death the late Isaac Van Voorhis and Elijah Teeple were appointed administrators of his estate, which consisted chiefly in a large amount which he claimed from the government as losses incurred by the depredations of the Indians. After a long delay the claim was collected and distributed among the heirs. He and a man named Lyons had a coal works on the river just above the mouth of Wolf Harbor run, not far below Lock No. 4. They were among the first to load coal in flat-boats by means of an incline from the pit to the river. They soon found that the enterprise would not pay and so abandoned the work.

Robert McFarland left two daughters, Eliza and Mary. Eliza married Rev. S. M. Sparks, one of the early pioneers in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She died long ago and was buried in the old graveyard where are the remains of her father and mother. She died in Pittsburgh, and her body was transported over land, as steamboating was an uncertain matter in those days. She left one daughter, wife of the late Dr. Wm. H. King. Mary, the remaining daughter of McFarland, married Alex. Wilson, of whom we have written in another place. Robert McFarland was no politician, but never failed to vote, even when he had to go almost half way to Brownsville to do so. He and his friend Isaac Van Voorhis cast the only votes in old Fallowfield township for Adams in 1824, when be was elected President over Jackson. The result in the township created no little merriment at the expense of the two lone voters, but the general outcome changed the tune of the other good old boys, who had shouted so loudly for the "Hero of New Orleans."