The Weir History
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Last Update 20-Aug-2006
|I received this E-Mail from Jay Schofield
I have some info on a James Weir who was born in Nova Scotia and whose parents came from Scotland. He was the son of Martha Weir who married my gggrandfather by the name of Schofield. He left Nova Scotia and joined up with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. I'm trying to find more on him myself. Hope I have been on help. Have you come across any Schofields from Nova Scotia? Regards,
|I received this E-Mail from Barbara Gibb, Liverpool
Hi Alex I don't know how much information you are expecting, but the following is the direct line from myself backwards as far as I have managed to trace, so far. Barbara Jane Gibb (nee Weir) born 1943, Liverpool My parents - Edwin James Weir (born 1911, Liverpool) and Ida Lilian Paice My father's parents - Alfred Weir (born 1885, Liverpool) and Kate Cres(s)well Grandfather's parents - Edwin John Weir (born 1942, Birmingham) and Ellen Lomas G-Grandfather parents - John Weir and ? My father is now deceased, as is his one brother (Roland Arthur). His sister, Marjorie is still alive. Alfred had quite a few brothers and sisters older than himself. I hope this is of interest. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.
I received this E-Mail from Gayle Sennott, Ontario, Canada
My gg-grandmother was Henrietta Weir. She was born in Greenock, Middle Parish, Renfrewshire, Scotland around 1843. Weir is a very common name in those parts of Scotland and the neighbouring county of Lanarkshire. In Lanarkshire, their is a town/area called "The Bridge of Weir" and the very earliest record of the Weir family dates back to a small town called Blackwood, which is also in Lanarkshire. Blackwood is still a very small village, with a lot of local history.
My ggg-grandfather, Henrietta's father, was Robert Weir, born in 1800, also in Greenock. He married Jane Barr. Their children were:
1. Thomas Weir - b. 1830
2. John Weir - b. 1833
3. Jane Weir - b. 1834 - married Angus Kennedy in 1854
4. Henrietta - b. 1843
My gggg-grandparents were Thomas Weir - b. 1775 and Mary Buchanan - b. 1788 - both in Greenock. Their children were:
1. John Weir - b. 1796
2. Thomas Weir - b. 1798
3. Robert (my ggg-grandfather) - b. 1800
4. Mary Weir - b. 1802
5. Matthew Weir - b. 1814
6. Nathan Weir - b. 1815
7. Janet Weir - b. 1817
I'm not sure if there were other children between the years 1802 - 1814. Seems like a large gap between Mary & Matthew. There is also a large gap between Jane & Henrietta.
I have some info on the Weir family that I got off the internet:
The name Weir, like many lowland Scottish names, is of Norman origin from one or several of the places named Vere around the Calvados region of France. The word was introduced into Normandy by the Norsemen from their own word "ver" meaning a station. It appears that Ralph or Radulphus de Ver is the first of the name recorded in Scotland. He was taken prisoner along with Richard the Lion in 1174; he later witnessed a charter by King William I sometime between 1174 and 1184. During the same period he gifted a bovate of land in Sprouston, Roxburgh to the Abbey of Kelso; his brother, Robert de Ver, was a witness to this charter. The Weirs of Blackwood, Lanarkshire, claim their descent from this Ralph de Ver, although this cannot be proven as their name does not appear on record until 1400 when they acquired their lands. Other Weirs were vassals of the Abbots of Kelso and as such held extensive lands in Lesmahagow. Some of the MacNairs in Cowal anglisized their name to Weir or Veir, the Gaelic original being Mac Amhaoir; the "mh" is pronounced "v". MacAmhaoir has been extinct as a name for about two hundred years and the Anglicization into Weir may well have contributed to its disappearance. William Weir was created 1st Viscount Weir in 1938; he had been Secretary of State and Chairman of the Air Council in 1918 and industrial adviser to the Ottawa Conference in 1932. The best remembered of the Weirs is Major Thomas Weir of Kirktown c.1600-1670, the "Bowheaded Saint". Born in Lanarkshire, he was a lieutenant in the army sent by the Covenanters to protect the Ulster colonies in 1641. Later he was a major in Lanark's Regiment and was appointed to command the City Guard of Edinburgh. Outwardly he portrayed himself as a religious man, but was secretly addicted to various crimes and deviations. He confessed at the age of 70 and along with his sister was burned alive for witchcraft in 1670.
Thanks to James Pringle Weavers for the following information:
WEIR: This name, now fairly common throughout Lowland Scotland, is usually derived from 'Vere', a name said to be of Norse origin, and to have come from France about the time of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Many Normans who came with the Conqueror later re-settled in Scotland from the reign of David I (1124-53), and what is believed to be the first instance of the name here identifies a Ralph de Vere, captured at Alnwick with William the Lion in 1174. Ralph has been promoted as the ancestor of the Weirs (Veres) of Blackwood in Lanarkshire, even though this family do not appear on record until 1400, when they first obtained possession of these lands. As vassals of the abbots of Kelso, they held extensive property in the parish of Lesmahagow, and in 1489, there is mention of George Were having remission for his share in burning the town of Dumbarton. The Hope-Vere name derives from the 1730 marriage between Charles Hope, son of the Earl of Hopetoun, and Catherine, heiress of Sir William Vere, 2nd Bt. of Blackwood. The name Weir, however, may also have roots in the Highlands, where it derives from other sources, some being descendants of one of the several MacNair families who anglicised their name to Weir. The MacNairs of Lennox are considered septs of the MacFarlanes, but some MacNuyers (MacAndeoirs), who became septs of the Buchanans are known to have become Weirs. In Buchanan parish in the Lennox, the name 'MacAmhaoir' was once known, but such has now been extinct for over 200 years - possibly superceded by Weir. Some Perthshire MacNairs, or MacAndeoirs, followed the MacNabs. The Argyllshire family of MacNuyer of Evan Glas ('Gray Hugh's race') settled on Lochgoilside, while of the MacNairs in Cowal, many are said to have become Weirs - these last allied with the MacNaughtons. Whier is a Caithness pronunciation, and on a tombstone in Temple churchyard, Midlothian, the name is spelt Wire. If evidence of descent from one of the above clans is lacking, then it is advised that the Weir, sometimes named 'Hope-Vere', tartan be adopted.
Thanks to Ray Isbell for the following information:
Black's statement that Radulphus/Ralph de Vere was the first of the name in Scotland in 1174 is incorrect. He was at least the third generation.
The next bit is from the following sources:
Bernard Burke's THE COMMONERS OF GREAT BRITAIN & IRELAND, vol. III, pp. 319-22; Burke's EXTINCT & DORMANT BARONETCIES; PEERAGE & BARONETAGE (1970); and Burke's LANDED GENTRY OF IRELAND (1899), pp 475-6 and (1958) pp 474-5:
Alberic de Vere (also called "Aubrey"), a descendant of a sister of the Emperor Charlemagne, came from Normandy to England, 1066; (it is assumed that a descendant of Alberic de Vere or one of his brothers who also went to England was:)
BALTREDUS de Vere came to Scotland from England by 1165; his son, Walter de Vere, was the father of Robert and Radulphus:
Radulph/Radulphus/"Ralph" de Vere who lived in Lanarkshire in 1296 (George Black incorrectly states he was on record in 1179, but has confused him with his grandfather's record, which actual date was more accurately 1165); Ralph was father of
THOMAS de Vere, father of
RICHARD de Vere/Were, father of
THOMAS de Vere/Wer/Were, father of
BUAN de Vere, father of
ROTHALD (Rothaldus) de Vere/WEIR OF BLACKWOOD, 1398, Bailie of Lesmahagow, father of George and Thomas:
THOMAS WERE/WEIR of Blackwood in 1432, father of
ROBERT VERE/WEIR born about 1430, father of
THOMAS WEIR born about 1460 who married 1483 Aegidia Somerville, daughter
of the third Lord Somerville; had son
JAMES WEIR OF BLACKWOOD (1495-1595) married Euphemia Hamilton.
It is assumed that three of the maternal forebears of Thomas Weir (born 1460) included a Buchannan, McFarlane, and a MacNaughton.
George Black's statement that the Weirs are not shown in the records before they obtained the lands of Blackwood, Lanarkshire, is not accepted by the greater authority, Sir Edmund Burke of Burke's Peerage. Further, the Veres/Weirs were in Lanarkshire as early as 1165, and all of them made donations to the abbots of Kelso as early as 1200s, and it was the abbots of Kelso who later conferred upon them the lands of Blackwood. The Weirs/Veres of Stonebyres and Archtyfardle and Mossmynemion were branches of the Weirs of Blackwood; indeed, Stonebyres estate was once part of the Blackwood estate. In the 1500s a century-old feud between the Weirs of Blackwood and their cousins the Veres of Stonebyres was ended when the Veres swore allegiance to Weir of Blackwood and acknowledged him their chief.
A good reference source for the Weirs is the book THE UPPER WARD OF LANARKSHIRE (1864, Glasgow) by G.V. Irving, 2 volumes
Seems as if the Weirs and Buchanans were intermarried over several generations.
If you're trying to find your relatives, I would suggest looking in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire first. Most likely, they are from one of those counties. There is quite a lot of info about the family on the internet and a lot of my info comes from the Latter Day Saints website, at: http://www.familysearch.org/
Use the IGI files when looking for information there. They are more reliable, since dates, etc. are taken from the actual church records and put onto microfilm.
Hope this helps you out a bit. If I can be of any more assistance, please let me know. I know how hard it is to track family down !!! I'm still researching the Weir family and have a long way to go before I'm finished !!
I received this E-Mail from John Parr - US 'Hoax or Not????'
October 18, 2001
I don't know if this information will be of any use to you but is sort
of interesting. This comes from family stories and I haven't been able
to confirm all of it.
My great, great Grandmother was Anne Jane Weir. My grandmother's
name(her daughter) was Hannah Snell and was born in 1853 near Bolton,
Ontario. She is buried at Marysville, Washington,USA. Anne Jane is
buried at Bolton, Ontario. There dosen't seem to be information on
marrage status for Anne Jane but she must have married a Snell.
What isn't clear due to not having an family records is the "tale" that
Anne Jane was a daughter of King George IV. The name Eliza Wallace is
also in the hand written family information. The family living on a
homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada received word that some person would
investigate Hannah's right to some estate but due to distance and lack
of money they did not pursue this letter. Could have been a hoax as
well or so they thought.
I have no idea how Anne Jane Weir got to Canada or when.
Any ideas where I could find more information.
Charles Stewart Weir Kilm.
Charles Stewart Weir, Block Cutter (Journeyman)
Widower of Mary Stevenson
Died February Seventh 3h 0m P.M.
106 Little Field Street, Kilmarnock, aged 78 years
Father: - Weir (Dec.)
Mother: - Weir (Dec.)
Cause of Death: Cerebral Haemmorrhage, 1 Day
As Cert. by (unreadable)
Informant: David Weir, Son, 11 Welles Street, Present
1904 February 8 at Kilmarnock
Wm Osborne, Ass. Registrar
Charles' son David appeared to know nothing whatsoever about his grand-parents. This is very vexing as Charles was born before 1855, and so we need the information usually contained on death certificates to track down his parents.
Charles had a daughter Mary, and a grand-son James Fraser Gilbert, who was born in 1894. His great-grand-daughter Molly was born in 1934.
Another branch from Ireland to the Colonies
"The surnames, with the same Christian names of the early Scotch-blooded settlers in New Hampshire, were often duplicated at the same dates in the Scotch settlement in Pennsylvania, and among them are Allison, Park, Morrison, Cochran, Boyd, Dickey, McAllister, Stewart, Wilson, Mitchell, Steele, Campbell, and others. Nor is this strange when we remember that as early as 1718 no less than five vessels of immigrants from the North of Ireland arrived on the coast of New England, but, forbidden to land at Boston by the intolerant Puritans, the immigrants moved up the Kennebec and there settled (Maine). The winter of 1718-19 being one of unusual severity, the great majority of these settlers left the Kennebec and came overland into Pennsylvania, settling in Northampton County."
Letter of Wm. H. Egle M. D., of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, dated April 13, 1878. He is the author of the ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA" published in 1876.
Numerous WEIRS/WARES/WIERS/AND WEARS lived in the Colonies and the first States before 1800. While we have not found evidence of their connection on this side of the Atlantic, they MAY be related. I have written NO PROOF by names and NO EVIDENCE in the note sections of individuals whom I have connected (without evidence). By the FOURTH GENERATION the lines are documented. For uniformity I have used the WEIR spelling for all variations of the name and have included the mother's maiden name as a middle name.
The John Weir who settled in "Ulster, on Derry Road, three leagues from Lough Neagh" about 1664 was born in Scotland and studied theology in Edinburgh. He was related to the Rev. John Weir, the Presbyterian minster at Dolserf (near Lanark and Lesmahagow) who was sent to Ireland "to administer the Covenant to all of the officers and soldiers and Protestants in Ireland." The Rev. John Weir was imprisoned by Alistaire MacDonnell and died in Mingarie Castle in 1643. Upon the expulsion of the Stuarts, many of his kin settled in Ulster---Antrim and Tyron Counties where they prospered for more than a hundred years.
John Weir who settled in Northern Ireland about 1664 lived in the home of Rab Ferguson while studying theology at Edinburgh and married his daugher Janet Ferguson in 1653 before moving to Ulster. John Weir and Janet Ferguson are the ancestors of the Weirs who came to Charleston at the end of the 18th Century and MAY be ancestors of other Weirs in America, including those who came to New England in 1718, those who attended the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church in Bucks County, and those who moved to the Borden Land Grant in the Shenadoah Valley of Virginia.
James, a son of John Weir and Janet Ferguson, was born in 1683 and married Margaret Agnes O'Mara in Northern Ireland in 1706. James Ferguson Weir had at least five sons and two daughters. Thomas, born in 1708, was the oldest son. All of Thomas' children came to America by way of Charleston, South Carolina in 1795 and 1804. The names of Thomas' brothers (JOHN, JAMES, WILLIAM) match the names of the first Weirs to settle in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Perhaps they were cousins or related in some other way.
Zella Armstrong, in her book NOTABLE SOUTHERN FAMILIES, suggests a connection between the first Weir settlers in Pennsylvania and the Robert Weir who sailed with 100 families in five ships from Northern Ireland in 1718. She identifies the Robert Weir who married Rebeccah Carrell in Bucks County in 1743 and died in Tennessee as the son of Robert Weir, one of the first settlers of Londonderry, New Hampshire (Nutfield).
Either way, we find many WEIRS, perhaps GRANDCHILDREN of John Weir and Janet Ferguson, taking leadership positions in the Scotch-Irish Communities of the colonies as well as leadership positions in the first Presbyterian Churches in America (Church at Londonderry, New Hampshire, Neshaminy Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Chruch at Timber Ridge, Virginia). They joined together to defeat the British in the American Revolution and were present at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. John and Samuel Weir, sons of Robert Weir who married Rebecca Carrell in Bucks County, routed the British at Kings Mountain and were both at Yorktown, Virginia to witness the surrender of the British to General Washington. But the Weirs, like many families in our country, were on opposing sides in the "War Between the States." On April 6, 1865 General in Chief Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House in Yorktown, Virginia to General in Chief Ulysses Simpson Grant. At least one Weir descendant was present that day, GENERAL GRANT!
ROBERT AND MARTHA WEIR IN ANTRIM COUNTY, NORTHERN IRELAND
Records show that in 1717 Robert Weir was a Commissioner in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. In less than a year he and wife Martha boarded one of the five ships bound for Boston. They joined 600 other Presbyterians from Aghadowey, Coleraine and Macosquin (an area covering a twenty-five mile radius in the Bann Valley of Ulster) to seek religious freedom and better economic conditions in New England. Their leader was the Rev. James McGregor, third minister of Aghadowey and the first minister born in Ulster. He was educated at Glasgow and ordained at Aghadowey in 1701. The Rev. William Boyd sailed to Boston in the spring of 1718 to act as a land agenf for the Bann Valley Presbyterians who left the port of Londonderry a few months later.
McGregor's sermon in Aghadawey Presbyterian Church on the eve of departure for the perilous journey to Boston was taken from Exodus 33:15, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." He identified with Moses leading the Children of Israel to the Promised Land and spoke to men and women burdened by increasingly harsh conditions inflicted on Presbyterians and others in Ulster. They became part of the first wave of Scotch-Irish immigrants willing to make great sacrifices to settle in a new land. Four other waves of immigration followed before 1800. Billy Kennedy in THE SCOTCH-IRISH IN THE HILLS OF TENNESSEE describes the harsh conditions:
"William's reign ended in 1702 and when his cousin Anne ascended the throne a High Anglican Church faction became dominant in government in London and enacted legislation which weighed heavily on the minds and consciences of the Presbyterians of Ulster. An Act was passed in 1703 which required all office holders in Ireland to take the sacrament according to the requirements of the Established Episcopal Church. As many Presbyterians held posts as magistrates and civic duties under the Crown they were automatically disqualified unless they renounced the dissenting Calvinistic faith of their forefathers in Scotland.
Members of the Roman Catholic Church who in the main constituted the native Irish Population in Ireland also bore the brunt of the discriminatory Test Act. But in the administering of religion Roman Catholic priests were at least recognized by the High Churchmen as being lawfully ordained.
Presbyterian ministers were in no such position and right across Ulster they were turned out of their pulpits and threatened with legal proceedings should they defy the edict from London. Ministers had no offical standing and were unable to sanctify marriages; unable to officiate at the burial of one of their congregation and prevented from teaching children in schools on any aspect of the Presbyterian faith......
Four years of drought made life almost unbearable fo the small peasant farmers on the hillsides of Ulster and, with the High Church landlords staking claims to exorbitant rents and the textile industry in recession, the movement of the Scots-Irish to America began in earnest."
ROBERT AND MARTHA WEIR IN NUTFIELD, NEW HAMPSHIRE
James (McKee) McKeen was one of the leaders of the group along with Robert and Martha's minister, the Rev. James McGregor. Elmer Roy Collier begins his book WEIR, WEAR, AND WARE WITH: "The Moore, Rankin, and Weir families petitioned in 1718 to the Governor of New England to come to America..." They arrived in Boston Harbor in August 4, of 1718 but, "forbidden to land by the intolerant Puritans, the immigrants moved up the Kennebec (to Maine) and there settled." Sixteen families sailed to Casco Bay to claim a tract of land there but were frozen in the Bay by early winter weather. It was a severe winter even by New England standards and they suffered greatly from lack of shelter and food. When the ice broke in the Spring they journeyed to Haverhill and heard of a fine tract of land about 15 miles away called Nutfield. James Gregg and Robert Wear (Weir) sent a request to the Governor and Court (assembled at Portsmouth, New Hampshire) for a township ten miles square. The majority of the Scotch-Irish could not wait any longer and traveled overland to the Scotch-Irish settlement at the Forks of the Delaware (Northampton County, Pennsylvania). "The surnames, with the same Christian names of the early Scotch-blooded settlements in New Hampshire, were often duplicated at the same dates in Scotch settlements in Pennsylvania, and among them are ALLISON, PARK, MORRISON, COCHRAN, BOYD, DICKEY, MCALLISTER, STEWART, WILSON, MITCHELL, STEELE, CAMPBELL, and others."
The second week of April 1719 some of the remaining families gathered under a large oak tree on the east side of Beaver Pond on land that would soon be theirs. The Rev. McGregor delivered the first sermon ever preached at Nutfield, and the first Presbyterian Church in New England was formally organized. Robert Wear and James Gregg remained to receive the deed for the town of Londonderry, New Hampshire on June 19, 1719. They voted to give lots in the town to the first comers "which is the number twenty". Robert Weir was one of the twenty to receive a lot. IF he indeed was related to the Bucks County Weirs, then he built his first bark covered log home with the help of young sons. Nutfield began as two rows of cabins along the West Running Brook to the east of Beaver Brook with a Common Field in which the potato was first grown in North America. The Bann Valley Presbyterians also introduced the small flax spinning wheel to this continent. In 1723 a daughter Elizabeth was born to Robert and Martha. Robert Weir was evidently well regarded in the community because he became the first Sheriff of Londonderry, New Hampshire.
One of the first threats to the new community was a " War with the Eastern Indians". James Gregg (1678-1735) immediately raised a company of men from the town to fight and he was commissioned a Captain. His sons and grandsons followed in his footsteps and became Indian fighters. One was sent on a special Canadian Expedition for that purpose.
Soon a meetinghouse was built in the eastern part of town with the Rev. James McGregor as pastor. Within six years four schools were built in the township. Children learned to read and write and the Rev. McGregor listened to their recitations of the Catechism (Westminster Confession). Much of the Sabbath was spent in the meetinghouse and as the town spread to the west many complained about the long distances they had to walk in the winter (with children in arms) to get to the meeting. The inconvenience of distance prompted a petition to a town meeting in 1730 asking that the western part of town "be set off as a parish, for the better enjoyment of religious privileges". The "meeting" refused this petition but the western settlers persisted. Most likely there were existing divisions in the community as well, even more serious than the threat from the Indians! The elders in the community may have resisted any action to aggravate that division.
But in 1735 the petitioners' request was granted and sixty families became part of the West Parish of Londonderry. They chose the Rev. David McGregor, son of the pastor, to lead their church. Soon parishioners wanted to shop for the church of their choice. It wasn't long before there were Easterners in the West Parish and Westerners in the East Parish. George Wiley, in his BOOK OF NUTFIELD, records the resulting confusion:
"For many years, these families (traveling to the opposite parish) were accustomed to meet and pass each other on their way to church, and sometimes these meetings were attended with ludicrous scenes. Persons would go miles on foot, carrying their shoes in their hands, and putting them on just before reaching the church. Two or more would use a single horse, each riding a short distance, and hitching the animal for the other to ride when he came up. It is said that two lovers, one belonging to the East and the other the West Parish, though engaged to be married, remained single all their lives and died of old age, because they could not agree on which church to attend."
Such a division in a close knit community is not surprising but no less distressing. Those in leadership may have grieved over the state of their community and prayed for God's rule in the hearts of men and women. A grandson of James Weir and Janet Ferguson wrote about his grandfather," He was a steady, industrious and pious man....The family were all pious and raised under the faith of the Presbyterian Church.... Margaret was a woman well acquainted with history, both sacred and profane." I would like to think that those words described Robert who may have been raised in (or acquainted with) that pious household.
WEIRS IN WARRINGTON TOWNSHIP, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Not far from Bath, the overflow (from Bucks County) Scotch-Irish Settlement at the Forks of the Delaware in Pennsylvania (Northampton County), a spiritual awakening rumbled. Students from the Rev. William Tennent's "Log College" on the Banks of the Neshaminy in Bucks County, as it was derisively called, traveled as far north as Londonderry, New Hampshire and preached in the meetinghouse to all who would attend.
The name of Weir began to show up in the Scotch Irish community along the Neshaminy Creek in Bucks County along with the names of other Scotch-Irish families from Londonderry, New Hampshire and elsewhere. There were Craigs, Walkers, Grays, Creightons, Barclays, and McKinstrys by 1740. The Carrell family lived on the farm adjoining the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church. The Log College was a mile down the road across from the Tennent home. By 1740 Robert Weir (who may have been a son of Robert and Martha of Nutfield) had fallen in love with and married Rebecca Carrell. By 1740 John Weir and James Weir owned land about 10 miles from the church and a William Weir owned land in Springfield Township, Bucks County. By the late 1750's Samuel Weir lived on John Weir's tract and Robert and Rebecca Carrel Weir had moved to Augusta County, Virginia (now Rockbridge County) where many of the same names in Londonderry, New Hampshire and Bucks County appeared.
Thanks to the research of Evelyn Eisenhard, I do have DOCUMENTATION for the family of Samuel Weir and his descendants. According to JoAnn Wear Spore, Samuel was the son of John Weir. I have read Samuel's will, walked through the restored homes of Samuel Weir and his son John, and visited the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church and site of the famous "log college" at Neshaminy. By reading about the ministers who served the congregation at Neshaminy in the 1700's, about the Log College (which served as a model for the more formal college its students helped establish at Princeton), and about the Great Awakening......I have learned a great deal about the religious and historical context of the lives of ancestors.
Ten years before the names of John and James Weir appear on the records, central Bucks County was little more than a wilderness with no roads. Each year more and more Scotch-Irish "dissenters" were among the refugees attracted to William Penn's Colony and the ones who, after landing at Philadelphia (the largest port in the colonies), made their way up the Delaware River to the mouth of the Neshaminy. Then they headed north using the Neshaminy Creek as their highway and finally built primitive homes on its banks. By the time John and James arrived in Pennsylvania (from New England or Ireland), the Scotch-Irish in the area had formally established two townships, called a minister, and erected a building for their Presbyterian Church.
SAMUEL WEIR (d.1811) AND MARY
Samuel Weir grew up attending church in an "elegant stone building 40 feet by 30 fitted for galleries and the front hewn of stone." But more important than the facility was the extraordinary preaching the Weirs heard every Sunday and the remarkable company in which they found themselves. The Rev. William Tennent (1673-1746) was an aging Scotsman who had graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1695 and served as "domestic chaplain" to Lady Anne, Duchess of Hamilton as an Anglican minister. In Ireland he adopted he Presbyterian Faith and married the daughter of a dissenting minister, Catherine Kennedy. He served a few other churches in the colonies before moving his wife, four sons and a daughter to the Pennsylvania wilderness.
From the time he arrived in America in 1718, the Rev. William Tennent schooled his four sons in classics and theology. He was "convinced that a well-educated ministry was vital to a developing nation" and dismayed that William and Mary, Harvard, and Yale were at too great a distance for many seeking to train for the ministry. With the assistance of his sons and neighbors he built a large building from logs in the surrounding forest. A small group of dedicated young men moved into the crude attic above the only classroom and cooked many meals in the open fireplace. Some of the students boarded in the Tennent home with the youngest Tennent sons. They arose for prayers at 5 A.M. and studied many subjects including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew until 9 P.M. when they went to bed. The students were impressed with Mr. Tennent's skill in the ancient languages but they were even more impressed with his own character and love for Jesus Christ. A writer in the May issue of the (Presbyterian) Assembly's Magazine, for the year 1805, says of Mr. Tennent:
"He was eminent as a classical scholar. His attainments in science are not so well known, but there is reason to believe that they were not so great as his skill in language. To William Tennent, above all others is owing the prosperity and enlargement of the Presbyterian Church. Tennent had the rare gift of attracting to him youth of worth and genius, imbuing them with his healthful spirit, and sending them forth, sound in the faith, blameless in life, burning with zeal, and unsurpassed as instructive and successful preachers."
His students went on to establish over 60 educational institutions in the colonies! It is said that people stood in deep snow for hours, transfixed by the Rev. William Tennent's eloquent and life changing sermons.
"In addition to his sons, Tennent educated Samuel Blair, John Blair, Samuel Finley, William Robinson, John Rowland, Charles Beatty, Charles McKnight, and others. We find these men preaching from Massachusetts to the Carolinas, now warning the 'secure' of a sophisticated congregation in Boston, or New York, now bringing their message to a handful of settlers on the upper Susquehanna....or in far off Rockbridge County in the valley of Virginia."
When Samuel was a teenager the "Great Awakening" spread through the land "producing a freshening of interest in things spiritual, and underscoring the need for a personal experience of salvation." The young men of the "log college", Samuel's minister, and the sons of his minister were considered leaders in the Great Awakening. They were on the "New Side" in the ensuing divisions that occurred in every church and denomination between those who welcomed the revival and those who disagreed with the emphasis on experience. The "Old Side" was wary of the many excesses surrounding the revival meetings. Perhaps these same tensions contributed to the division in the Presbyterian churches in Londonderry, New Hampshire!
"Most of the recent Scotch Irish immigrants, the "Old Side," favored a tightly organized church with traditional educational standards for ministers and great emphasis on the Westminster Confession. Presbyterians from New England and the Tennent group, the "New Side," did not turn away from these traditional Presbyterian emphases, but they did want to promote revival and vital piety even if it meant relaxing traditional standards."
In 1739 William Tennent rode his horse into Philadelphia to invite the magnetic 24 year-old Anglican preacher and evangelist, George Whitefield, to come to Neshaminy. The church's name appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette insuring that EVERYONE in the area came. Over 3,000 people turned up in Mr. Tennent's meetinghouse yard to hear the sermon.
"When word was brought that the popular evangelist was preaching in the vicinity, farmers dropped their implements in the fields, and rode their horses to a lather to hear him. So great was the range of his voice that Benjamin Franklin decided to measure it, and concluded that 30,000 people could hear him speak from an outdoor stage."
It is likely that the Weirs were among the 3,000 that November day in 1739!
From the journal of the Rev. George Whitefield
Thursday, November 22
Set out for Neshamini (20 miles distant from Trent Town) where old Mr. Tennent lives and keeps an Academy where I was to preach to Day, according to Appointment. About Twelve we came thither, and found above 3,000 People gather'd together in the Meeting-House Yard; and Mr. William Tennent...preaching to them, because we had stayed beyond the Time appointed. When I came up, he soon stopp'd and sung a Psalm, and then I began to speak as the Lord gave me Utterance. At first the People seemed unaffected, but in the midst of my Discourse, the Power of the Lord Jesus came upon me... The Hearers began to be melted down immediately, and very much...After our Exercises were over, we went to old Mr. Tennent's, who entertain'd us like one of the ancient Patriarchs. His wife to me seemed like Elizabeth, and he like Zacchary...we had sweet Communion with each other, and spent the Evening in concerting what Mesure had best be taken for promoting our dear Lord's Kingdom. It happens very providentially, that Mr. Tennent...intends breeding up gracious Youths...The place wherein the Young men study now is in contempt called the College. It is a log-house, about twenty feet long, and near as many broad and to me it seemed to resemble the Schools of the Old Prophets...All that can be said of most of our publick University is, they are all glorious WITHOUT. From this despised place seven or eight worthy Ministers of Jesus have lately been sent forth; more are almost ready to be sent, and a Foundation is now laying for Instruction of many others....
It is surprising how such Bodies of People so scattered abroad can be gathered at so short a Warning. I believe at Neshamini there might be near a thousand horses, which the people do not sit on to hear the Sermon as in England, but tied them to the Hedges; and thereby much Disorder is prevented.
The Rev. George Whitefield, wrote to a friend in Philadelphia, July 15th, 1740:
"I rejoice you have been at Nashaminy. I can say of Mr. Tennent and his brethren as David did of Goliath's sword: 'None like them.' "
He returned to the church yard in April of 1740 and August of 1754 and the crowds were even larger! Again, it is safe to say that our Weir relatives living in the area at the time returned both times to hear Mr. Whitefield. (See Notes for John Weir Sr. for a sermon of Whitefield's)
Meanwhile, William Tennent retired in 1742 and died in 1746. In 1743 the Rev. Gilbert Tennent returned to his father's church to preach the ordination sermon for Charles Clinton Beatty, an alumni of the Log College. Mr. Beatty was the minister through the French and Indian War until he died of Yellow Fever on a trip to Barbados in 1772. He will always be remembered for his mission trips to the frontier settlements and Indian villages west of Pittsburgh, for his successful fundraising trips to England, and for uniting the New Side and Old Side parties of the church in 1758. Beatty (as Chaplain) accompanied Benjamin Franklin and five hundred men who traveled to western Pennsylvania to defend the frontier, after the burning of the Moravian missionaries at Gnadenhuetten, near Lehighton. In 1754 Samuel Weir became a Trustee of the church while the Rev. Beatty was the pastor.
Samuel and his family traveled about 10 miles each Sunday to church. Just as was noted in Londonderry, New Hampshire the parishioners often walked eight or ten miles with their shoes and stockings in their hands. When they reached a spring near the meetinghouse they washed their feet put on their shoes before entering the sanctuary. The sermons frequently lasted two hours. There was no Sunday School or Nursery. Music was an important part of the service but very different than our choirs of today. Neshaminy did not have a choir during Samuel's lifetime although instruments were used occasionally by Nathaniel Irwin. One or two men sat in the front of the pulpit facing the congregation and stood up to "set the tunes" for the congregation. Only after the Revolution was anything used besides Rouse's version of the Psalms of David. Nathaniel Irwin slowly and cautiously introduced Watts' hymns. Samuel was probably at church the day that one worshipper was so upset that he picked up his hat and walked out before the service was over. He stormed up the hill to the tavern in Warrington:
"When questioned by the men at the bar about his early departure, he fumed that they were doing nothing but singing Yankee Doodle songs and play house tunes, down at Neshaminy. He then ordered a "gill o'rum" to quench his disgust"
In 1774 a call was given to the Rev. Nathaniel Irwin, the person who wrote Samuel's will and was named a "friend" of Samuel Weir. Nathaniel was about eight or nine years younger than Samuel and was the muscular son of spinning wheel maker from Chester County. While at Princeton Nathaniel and James Madison founded the Whig Society. He was a very popular minister and the congregation grew rapidly. He played the violin with some skill and loved to organize social gatherings for the young people of the church at his home. He even entertained them with music and dancing. People admired the vegetables he grew at his large farm off Easton Road and most of all the 'chaise' that transported him around the area. He was the first one to own such a vehicle.
The Rev. Irwin was single when he was called to the church but married Martha Jamison in 1777. She was the daughter of the innkeeper whose nearby inn was a meeting place for Bucks County Revolutionary committees. Sadly, Nathaniel's son became an alcoholic and his wife an adulterer. When she died in 1806 he married again to a "discreet and sensible helpmeet." To supplement his income he prescribed medicines and wrote wills. He wrote the will for Samuel, Ann Weir (daughter of James), and probably many others in our family.
Notes for UNKNOWN:
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Besides the marriage celebration of Nathaniel Irwin to Martha Jamison that our Weirs may have attended in 1777, the BIGGEST news of the year concerned Washington's 11,000 troops who camped around the church! They crossed the Delaware River at New Hope and marched down York Road right by the tavern owned by Martha Jamison's father! They marched toward Philadelphia but returned a few days later to set up camp at the Crossroads. Samuel's sons John and James served in the Revolutionary war in 1776,1777, and 1778 but it is not clear where they were in 1777. Adam Kerr owned the tavern at the Crossroads and was delighted with his booming business. The church was used to shelter the sick and wounded and some were buried in the cemetery in unmarked graves. The tent city was half the size of Philadelphia and we can assume that our relatives sold or contributed food from their gardens and meat from their supplies for the hungry soldiers that very hot and humid August. It has been said that there were no Tories or Pacifists among the Scotch-Irish. However, the Tent City in their backyard most likely strained the residents' enthusiasm a bit!
Late though it was when the troops arrived at the Crossroads that Sunday evening one of the first orders issued according to Gen. Muhlenberg's Orderly Book was:
"As it is uncertain how long we shall remain in the Present Encampment the Soldiers are to fix Booths before their Tents to shelter them from the Heat. The Qr. Masters are to give directions Immediately to have Vaults [latrines] dug in proper and Convenient Places...." These "vaults" were to be camouflaged with "Bows and Bushes" in a single line to the rear of the camp. The men were reminded that at their previous encampment there had been complaints that the "Offensive smells" had become a "public nusence."
General Washington established his headquarters at the Moland house (John Moland was recently deceased), overlooking the Neshaminy Creek. Betsy Ross' flag was flown there for the first time, Count Pulaski was introduced to General Washington, and Lafayette assumed his command during those 11 days in August. At the end of the 11 days Washington called a Council of War in the reception room of the Moland house. Present at the council, in addition to the Commander-in-Chief, were Major Generals Greene, Stirling, Stephen, and Lafayette; and Brigadier Generals Maxwell, Knox, Wayne, Muhlenberg, Weedon, Woodford, Scott, and Conway. Lafayette, only nineteen years of age, was welcomed into the group for the first time.
In Davis' HISTORY OF BUCKS COUNTY he describes the Moland farm house. The description will give us an idea how the homes of Samuel and John compared with others in 1777:
"substantial stone dwelling...in good preservation.....
As when Washington occupied it, the first floor of the main building is divided into two rooms with the entry near the kitchen; the larger room being on the south (west) side and entered from the porch, the smaller, back. The latter is thought to have been used by Washington as an office, the larger a reception room. In each there was an open fireplace and then as now a door opened into the kitchen. There has been no change in the porches in sixty years, and similar ones may have been there 1777-8."
Others called it the "best finished house in the neighborhood" at the time of the Revolution. Most structures were built of logs and still consisted of one room downstairs and a loft above. As someone has exclaimed, "John Moland's stone house must have seemed palatial."
JOHN WEIR (d. 1840) AND MARY MCKINSTRY
When the war was over our Weir relatives suffered with everyone else from the depreciation of the paper money issued by Congress. Available land was scarce in Bucks County and neighbors and family members continued to move south by way of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and west to Indiana and Ohio. Samuel's son John married Mary McKinstry and Samuel's daughter Mary married Robert McKinstry, brother to Mary. John inherited land and built his home (Field of Praise) at the end of a long lane off of Upper State Road. Weirs' Corner is located at the intersection of Upper State Road and the Limekiln Pike. A Historical Marker marked Weirs' Corner in the late 1970's but has been removed.
In 1793 John was the collector of pew rents at Neshaminy Presbyterian Church and in October his younger sister Rebecca married John Roberts Simpson at the church. John and Rebecca had four children, all baptized at Neshaminy Presbyterian Church by the Reverend Nathaniel Irwin. Hannah Weir Simpson was born in Whitemarsh, Montgomery County on November 23, 1798 and baptized in February by the Rev. Nathaniel Irwin. Before Hannah turned five her mother, Rebecca Weir Simpson died. Although a marker has not been found, it is likely that she was buried at Neshaminy Presbyterian church with the sermon given by the Rev. Nathaniel Irwin. John Simpson then married Sarah Hare, a granddaughter of Benjamin Hare. The four Simpson children as well as the children of John Weir and Mary McKinstry attended the County Line schoolhouse when a teacher was available. The schoolhouse was just opposite the Simpson Homestead although in another county. Every Sunday afternoon visiting ministers held services at the schoolhouse and Hannah attended these meetings with her family and possibly grandparents and relatives.
When Hannah was a teenager her father took her on a trip in a wagon across the Allegheny Mountains to look at property in Ohio. Joseph Gilkeyson of Roxborough went along to help with the horses and other chores. When they stopped at Inns and Public Houses along the way, John Simpson had a problem he never anticipated. His daughter was too attractive and the young men who saw her asked John Simpson unending questions about his daughter. Annoyed with the excess attention that his daughter received, he told everyone that John Gilkeyson was her husband. That apparently solved the problem. In 1817 John's oldest daughter and husband moved to Bethel, Clermont County, Ohio. In the sping of 1819 John Simpson moved his family to Ohio. Many other families from the area had already settled in Cermont County, Ohio as well as in Rockingham County, Virginia.
John and Sarah corresponded with Simpson and Weir relatives back in Pennsylvania. It wasn't long before news came that Hannah Weir Simpson had married Jesse Root Grant and in 1822 they became the parents of future President Ulysses Simpson Grant!
In 1815 John Weir was elected an Elder for the church. His father Samuel had died in 1811 and was buried next to his mother in the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church cemetery. John's son Samuel, named after his grandfather, married the granddaughter of James Weir, one of the first Weirs in the Bucks County. Samuel inherited his grandfather's EIGHT DAY CLOCK and 10 pounds!
Nathaniel Irwin died in 1812 and was buried as he requested at the spot in the cemetery where the pulpit of the original church stood. Not surprising, there was a funeral procession of carriages extending one and one half miles from his home on Easton Road to the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church. I imagine that John and Mary McKinstry Weir's carriage was in that procession. Thomas McKinstry Weir ran a store at Weirs' Corner for a while before moving west with his family and settling in Indiana. John Weir died in 1840 and his land was divided between the remaining three brothers, James, Nathan, and Robert. John and Mary's daughters, Mary, Margaret, and Priscilla, never married. After their father's death they and their mother lived with James in the family home.
ROBERT MCKINSTRY WEIR (d.1874) AND JANE BRADY
Robert McKinstry Weir married Jane Brady abt 1843 and had four children. Occasionally relatives who had moved to Ohio would return to visit their relatives in Pennsylvania. Robert remembers the visit of a young officer, just graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1843, on his way home to visit his parents in Ohio. Samuel Weir was the grandfather of Robert and the great grandfather of the visitor who asked to visit Samuel's home as well as Simpson relatives in Bucks County. Ten years later the same relative visited relatives in the township. It was quite an honor to see this relative elected President of the United States after the Civil War!
Robert and his brother James lived near each other and the houses still stand! Jane's sister raised Thomas and Catherine, the younger children, after Jane died. John died at 26. According to the 1870 Census, James and Thomas hired out as farm laborers, James with the Lighman Hoover family and Thomas with the Nathan Wiser family.
In September of 1840 ten days of evangelistic services were held very near Weir's Corner in a wooded grove belonging to Jacob Cassel in Montgomery County. The meetings took place a few miles south of Pleasantville and not far from the Weir homes. The Rev. Charles H. Ewing, an evangelist for the Reformed Church, led the "camp meetings". When the weather made it impractical to meet outdoors the worshipers assembled in the barn of Frederick W. Hoover, a member of Boehm's Reformed Church in Blue Bell. There were a number of conversions during the ten days of meetings and a small steadfast group met at the Hoover home at the end of September to organize a new church. The Reformed denomination was chosen and the first service was held at the County Line School. There is no evidence that the Weirs attended these meetings but they later joined this church, probably because it was much closer to their homes.
JAMES BRADY WEIR (d. 1915)
AND EMMA JANE DANNEHOWER
Within a year volunteers in the Reformed Church built a brick structure, fifty-one feet by sixty feet, on two-acres of land donated by John Dunlap on the Limekiln Pike. In March of 1874 James Weir, a grandson of John and Mary McKinstry Weir and oldest surviving son of Robert and Jane Brady Weir, married Emma Jane Dannehower at the little brick church. Emma Jane's parents were most likely members. James and Emma Jane attended the church and their children were baptized as infants in the church. In 1898 the present stone church was constructed and James Weir and Emma Jane Dannehower Weir are buried in the adjoining cemetery of the Pleasantville Reformed Church. In 1923 the children and grandchildren of Emma Jane and James Weir gathered at the home of Effie and Jesse Freas in Ambler to bid farewell to Ella May (Weir) and Edward Mulliken who moved to California. For many years the family met each year at the farms of members. Today the Weir family Reunions are held the first Sunday in August every year at the Pleasantville Church, now called the United Church of Christ.