Mom’s parents. . .

. . My mother’s parents Joseph and Sarah (Snedden) Whitsell, came from more diverse backgrounds than my dad’s parents did. Both her parents’ families were early residents of America, primarily in Pennsylvania. Her father’s parents, William and Mary Anna (Bush) Whitsell, lived in Jefferson and Indiana Counties. Her mother’s family settled in Clarion and Cambria Counties.

Mom’s father was Joseph Pearl (JP) Whitsell born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania August 18, 1881. He was the fifth of eleven children born to William and Mary Anna (Bush) Whitsell. I have verified the birth dates of four siblings prior to JP’s birth and six following his birth. The elder siblings were: Charles Thurston, 1872; Leona Virginia (called Verna), 1875; Sarah Etta, 1876: Jennie, 1879 (she died in infancy). The younger children were: James Curtin, March, 1886; Lilly Malina, May, 1888; Lottie Beatrice, August, 1890; Grace Rhodella, March, 1893; and Calvin George, July, 1896.

Mom’s mother was born Sarah Sophia Snedden January 28, 1883, in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. We believe the family moved to Cambria County shortly after she was born. Her childhood nickname was ‘Sadie’. Her husband called her ‘Sade’. She was the second oldest child of Robert and Sarah Hannah (McKisson) Snedden. She had six siblings: Robert Jr. born in 1878; Eli Ritz born in 1881; Mary Ellen born in 1887; Allen born in 1888; John 1889; and William (Bill) born in 1895.

Sarah Sophia Snedden married Pearl Joseph Whitsell September 17, 1900 in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. The 1900 Census information shows grandmother, ‘Sadie’ was seventeen and grandfather, ‘Perl’ was eighteen. The Census also reveals that Perl’ was one of several boarders in Sarah’s home in Blacklick Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

The Whitsell family. . .

. . Sarah and Pearl had six children, all daughters, they were: Ethel Hanna born March 12, 1901; Anna Blanche born February 20, 1903; Mildred Ellen born January 20, 1906; Wes’s mother, Fleming Rhodella born July 14, 1913 in Twin Rocks, Pennsylvania; Sylvia Elsie born May 20, 1920, in Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania; and Doris Willonette born in Spangler, Pennsylvania January 27, 1924. Doris was probably born in Spangler hospital. Doris’s older sister, Mildred was a newly capped nurse at that hospital and probably arranged to have her mother admitted. Most babies prior to then and several years after were delivered at home. For some of my personal thoughts about my grandparents and others, click here.

The paternal grandparents. . .

. . Grandfather’s dad, William Whitsell, was born in Oliver Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. He was born in January 1845 and died on March 29, 1931. He died in Jackson Township, Cambria County. He and his wife were buried in the West End cemetery in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

The census information from 1860 and 1870 indicates that William’s father and mother were named John and Elizabeth Whitsell (they called her Elizza); the name was spelled Whitsel in the Census. Elizabeth’s maiden name was Saltsgiver. John and Elizabeth had seven children at the time of the 1870 census, which was conducted August 2. Grandfather (Pearl’s father) William was 20; Mary, eighteen years old; twins Martha and Henrietta were sixteen; Elizabeth was fourteen; Esther was ten and the youngest child was a two year old girl, her name was not legible on the census document. John was 61 and his wife, Elizabeth, was forty-one when the census was conducted.

Pearl’s mother Mary Anna (Bush) Whitsell was also born in Pennsylvania. Her birth date was July 1854. She was born in North Mahoning Township, Indiana County. Again, the exact dates or locations haven’t been determined. An old Bible revealed that her father was James Bush but her mother’s first name is uncertain. Her surname was Nicely. Grandpa Whitsell Ancestry Chart can be seen here.

The maternal grandparents. . .

. . Grandma (Sade) Whitesell’s father was Robert Snedden, born in Scotland, June 21, 1848. He immigrated to America in 1864 at the age of 15, along with his mother, father and four younger siblings. His father was also Robert (documents spell his surname Snadden), born in Scotland May 5, 1827. His mother was Jeanie (Jamieson) Snedden also born in Scotland, Circa 1829. They were married in Dairy, Ayrshire, Scotland on March 13 1847. Sade’s father, Robert, died January 23, 1920 and is buried in the Mundy’s Corner, PA cemetery.

Grandma Sade’s mother was Sarah Hannah McKisson, born November 25, 1856 in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. Sarah was the eldest of six children born to Silas and Augusta Louisa (Stromyer) McKisson. Her siblings were two brothers and three sisters: brothers Christian born sometime in 1857 and Silas J. born April 1860; and sisters Louisa born in 1866, Mary Molly born in 1868 and Susanna born in November 1877. Sarah died December 20, 1946 in Buffalo New York. She was living there with her daughter Mary Ellen’s family. She is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo N. Y.

Sade’s grandfather, Silas McKisson, was born in Clarion County February 7, 1832. He married Augusta Louisa Stromyer September 6, 1855. He died July 30, 1903, in his home on Greenville Avenue in Clarion, Pennsylvania. According to the newspaper, he was buried in Clarion cemetery August 2, 1903, however we were unable to find his plot in that cemetery.

Sila’s wife was born Augusta Louisa Stromyer, in Hanover, Germany May 1837. She died at the Memorial Home in Brookville PA. July 9, 1920. Augusta was 17 when she emigrated with her family from Germany on the ship “Wanderer”. They arrived in N.Y. Aug. 12, 1854. The ship records show their last place of residence in Germany was Herzberg. Their ship sailed from Bremen Germany. Augusta’s parents were Fredrick and Hannah Stromyer, both born in Hanover Germany. Fredrick was born July 4, 1802 and Hannah January 10, 1806. Fredrick died August 16, 1879 in Clarion County and Hannah died July 26, 1888, also in Clarion County. They are buried in Blairs Corners Cemetery, Clarion County.

Sila McKisson’s ancestry has been a bit more difficult to research. The parental information on the information regarding his death were left blank. We think that Sila’s father was named James McKisson but we have been unable to verify the scattered information we have. We found mention of James in the book, History of Clarion County, edited by A. J. Davis and published in 1887. In chapter XLIV titled, “History of Beaver Township” and written by B. M. Price, it was stated, “The first settler east of Canoe was James McKisson, on the Regina Altman farm (Pg. 444)”. Canoe is reference to Canoe Creek. Just east of the creek is the location of the farm where Silas and his family lived before he moved into the town of Clarion. We found a map in an old atlas that shows the McKisson and Stromyer farms, both in that same vicinity. I went to that location and there is only a scrubby forest with a lot of under brush there now. Grandma Whitsell’s Ancestry Chart can be seen by clicking here.

Skeleton in the closet. . .

. . A bit of family infamy was also reported in chapter XLIV of the above mentioned publication. On page 448 the following was reported:

The crimes and casualties of the township have been quite numerous, but we are unable here to give authentic data. On the 2d of October 1885, Mrs. McKisson shot Patrick Forbes, dangerously wounding him.

I remember my grandmother Whitsell telling me that her grandmother once shot a man. She never provided me with much detail but she did say that her grandmother shot the man in “his private parts”.

After some digging at the Clarion County Courthouse and the now closed County Jail, I was able to get the actual trial records stemming from that incident. The shooting actually happened October 17, 1884. The records show that both Silas and his wife were arrested for the episode, however the official records refer to Silas’ wife as ‘Gusta’ not Augusta. ‘Gusta’ was charged with the Felonious Assault of Patrick Forbes. Her husband was charged with Accessory to Felonious Assault. The Grand Jury recommended they each stand trial and they were released on $2500 bail until their trials.

The trials took place January 20, 1885 and they both were found not guilty of Felonious Assault but guilty of Assault and Accessory to Assault. Silas was sentenced to six months in the County Jail. ‘Gusta’ was sent to Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for one year and three months. Western Penitentiary was a relatively new facility at that time. We wander if that influenced the jurors?

Through the 1880 Census we were able to determine that the man ‘Gusta’ shot, Patrick Forbes, was a farm laborer who had emigrated from Ireland and lived in the same area as the McKissons. He was married and had a one year-old child at the time of the Census. He would have been forty-eight at the time of the incident. Reading between the lines and considering where he was shot, we at first thought ‘Gusta’ may have been protecting the honor of one of her daughters. Mary Molly would have been sixteen and daughter Louisa eighteen at the time.

However, through the wonders of the internet, we got the real story. Through this web site I made contact with a cousin, Lillian, who has done some pretty extensive research on the Snedden family. Lillian’s grandfather, Alan Snedden, was Wes’s grandmother, Sade’s brother. Lillian explained that her mother related that g-g-g grandma McKisson was only protecting here property. It seems the Patrick Forbe’s used the Mckisson property as a short-cut rather than using the roadway. In those day’s continued use such as that could ultimately lead to the property becoming ‘right of way’ and would no longer be considered ‘private property’. Augusta went to the township authorities several times to no avail. They first told her to post a no trespassing sign, which she did. When that didn’t work they told her to build a fence. When the fence didn’t discourage Mr. Forbes and the authorities seemed not interested in helping, g-g-g grandma Augusta took matters in her own hands. Poor g-g-g grandpa Silas probably knew better than to try to stop her and guilelessly became an accessory.


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