Northeastern US in 2014 -- Ancestors, Descendants, and American History

All pictures, unless otherwise noted, are copyright 2013 by John A. and Elizabeth B. Lucas. All rights reserved.

Greene County, PA    Harper's Ferry, WV    Baltimore and St. Michaels, MD    Williamsburg and Jamestown, VA    Charlottesville, VA    
Skyline Drive (Shenandoah National Park), VA    Hartford, CT     Old Sturbridge Village, MA


We could not put together an international trip this year -- it was mostly a lack of inspiration and energy at the time when we needed to do the research and planning. We decided to do something that has been down in the queue of trips to make, but is more of a personal journey than our previous ones:

Map coordinates are given in a style compatible with Google Maps.

Part One -- Homesteads and Headstones

Researching family history may not be something that you're interested in but John has been since the early 1990s, though he has not always been actively researching. The birth of our granddaughter Nora was the stimulus to reopen the files and database and bring them up-to-date. Family history research is an unending detective story with glorious successes and frustrating failures. Our trip to Greene County, Pennsylvania (about 650 miles by car from our home) had some of both aspects.

We left Tewksbury on Monday, July 7th 2014 and drove about halfway to Lansdale, Pennsylvania north of Philadelphia where we visited and had dinner with our daughter Stephanie and her friend Hugh. The second half of the outbound trip was the next day. We needed to get to Waynesburg, Pennsylvania before dinner as there was an evening monthly meeting of the Cornerstone Genealogical Society (of which John has been a member for 20 years). Although John's family lived in this area from about 1768 to 1871, none of the Lucases had visited Greene County since about 1920 when John's father and grandfather had traveled there.

We arrived in Waynesburg in time for lunch and spent the afternoon in the society library where the staff and members of the society were eager to help and show us documents and books. We were also able to confirm locations and conditions for our cemetery searches on the following day. As you will see, not all cemeteries are equal in condition and accessibility! We knew in advance about the conditions and locations, but local on the ground advice was very helpful. In the evening, it was great to meet many of the members of the society, many of whom are distant cousins of the Corbly, Garard and Fordyce (but not Lucas) lines ancestral to John.

Reverend John Corbly and the Intervening Generations

A partial ancestral tree (opens in a separate window) from living Lucas Family members to the Reverend John Corbly, focusing on the families once living in Greene County, Pennsylvania. This is the "scorecard" so you can follow who we were researching and are writing about.

If you don't want the details, you can skip over them, but this section explains how John Corbly was involved in locations from Greene County in the mountains of western Pennsylvania to Williamsburg Virginia in 1776. His paths and ours crossed in those locations and places in between although we did not attempt to visit every known location where he resided and/or preached. John Corbly and his first wife are John's 5th greatgrandparents.

Records of the particular Lucas Family from which John is descended date only as far back as 1830 when they appear in the 1830 US census for Greene County. But by some reckoning, his great-great-grandfather Austin was about 40 then, and he and Charlotte had probably been married since at least 1820. Their birthplaces and marriage location are not known. Their son, James Boyd Lucas, married Hettie Ann Fordyce and that link ties John to several of the founding families when the county was "erected" in 1796. Austin and Charlotte are John's most frustrating "brick wall" seeming to resist every attempt to add details, and as we'll see, even evading searching in the cemetery where they are supposed to be!

Our plan was to visit four Greene County cemeteries where ancestral headstones/markers/memorials were known to exist. John's research had also located what was the Lucas farm at the time of the Civil War. We planned to visit that location as well as it was only a mile or so from the final cemetery of the day.

Whitely Chapel Cemetery, Whitely Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania

This was known to be the most uncertain, "adventurous" of our Greene County activities. The cemetery is known to have been abandoned and vandalized for years. Few markers remain. In aerial images, it shows only as a clearing in the forest, on Pennsylvania State Game Lands. John had a GPS location and topographical maps as well as using Google Maps Street View to aid in finding it, but it was uncertain whether we would find it and what we would find. The Cornerstone Genealogical Society told us that someone had been there about three months ago and that "the path up the bank was still there."

Left: The road "entrance" to Whitely Chapel Cemetery, Beth is recording the GPS coordinates. The entrance is at coordinates 39.810154, -80.082031. No sign, just an opening in the guardrail.
Right: The "path up the bank," again no sign or arrow.

John slogging uphill with full camera gear toward one of the few markers still visible. This turned out to be two markers touching each other...

1. an original, highly defaced or eroded stone for John and Elizabeth Fordyce and

2. A modern stone (since 1978 when all surviving inscriptions were recorded) marking not only John and Elizabeth but his parents as well. (Note: Taken after stomping, kicking and otherwise moving vegetation out of the way.)

Of the more than 100 burials here, only eight or so have any visible surviving marker. A September 2010 photo by Jim Fordyce shows how much further damage has occurred, even allowing for rampant summer growth. As some accounts claim that John Fordyce died in Ohio 1848, perhaps this has always been a cenotaph rather than a headstone for him.

Having shot a lot more pictures than this, we scrambled down the bank, knocked various plant parts off our clothes and drove three miles to the tiny village of Fordyce, Pennsylvania.

Mordock Cemetery, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania

The next adventure was to find the graves of Abner Fordyce (son of John, grandson of Samuel), his two wives and their parents. The Mordock Cemetery in Fordyce is also inactive but not abandoned. There is no sign or arrow indicating its location, but aerial images DO show headstones surrounded by a fence and a track or path leading uphill about 1/4 mile from the road. Local information told us the path was usable by farm equipment or 4-wheel drive vehicles but not by our 11 year old sedan.

Left: Yes, the sign at the other end of the village also was leaning.
Right: Beth is standing at the unmarked access track to the cemetery, coordinates 39.849593, -80.082001. It's a steady 5-10% upslope from here.

John is at about the midpoint (on the later descent).
When you get there, the path emerges into a hay meadow and reveals this beautiful and serene view. Quite a contrast from the encroaching forest of Whitely Chapel Cemetery.

On the right, the gravestone of Abner Fordyce and Eliza Mordock, his first wife (John's great-great-grandparents). Next to the left are the stones of her parents, John and Margaret Mordock. There are about 30 or so burials in this private cemetery, mostly Mordock relatives not Fordyces.

The graves and cemetery are obviously in much better condition here, though frost, acid rain, and 150 years and more have not been kind to the relatively soft stones.

Garard's Fort Cemetery, Greene Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania

The previous two cemeteries and this third one form a triangle perhaps four miles on a side. This one is actively managed and HAS a sign on the passing road, the street entrance coordinates are 39.812910, -80.019818.

It is at this point that the story of Reverend John Corbly (John's 5th great-grandfather) needs to be told.

This memorial summarizes the life of John Corbly, although some of the facts have not withstood the passage of time and of more thorough researchers. As John found out, some local descendants still cling to the traditional story. John Corbly is now thought to have been born in County Meath, Ireland and come to America as a 14 year old indentured servant, landing in Philadelphia but serving in what is now Rising Sun, Maryland (though then still on the Pennsylvania side of the ill-defined boundaries). John Lucas is descended through Abigail KIRK (not Bull) and her daughter Rachel, who is also buried here.

John Corbly's 2nd family (with the exception of daughter Delilah) were massacred by Native Americans in 1782. They and John's third wife are all buried here. There is also a memorial to the massacre. The event has even made it into Wikipedia. The second picture is of the memorial stones for the four children who died as a result of the massacre, Elizabeth more than a decade later.

At least one other Wikipedia article relates to John Corbly although he is not mentioned explicitly -- he was arrested by Federal militia in October 1794 as an alleged leader in the Whiskey Rebellion. He was marched to Philadelphia but eventually was exonerated of all charges. It seems doubtful that he was actually a leader in the movement for several reasons that are omitted here.

A DAR Patriot (the local chapter is named in his honor) and tried for treason --for these and many other aspects of his life, Reverend John Corbly is John's favorite ancestor. (John also has favorites in Beth's ancestry, but those are other tales.)

John Corbly and his second (left) and third (right) wives:

John Corbly's first wife and ancestress of John Lucas, Abigail, was buried in late 1768 in an unmarked grave about 12 miles west of what is now Gerrardstown, West Virginia, site of an earlier land grant held by John Corbly. After Abigail's death he moved into the wilderness with four of the Garard/Garrard/Gerrard/etc brothers.

John and Abigail's second daughter Rachel married Justus, the youngest of the Garard Brothers. Rachel was 13 and Justus was 18 but already holding a 400 acre (162 hectare) "plantation" adjacent to that of John Corbly's similar holding.

We're sure that you are thoroughly fatigued with family history by now. There is only a little more to tell, though John Corbly and the Garards will reappear in this narrative in Williamsburg and then in the eventual homeward leg of the trip.

Fairview Cemetery, Dunkard Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania

The final two stops of the day were further south, just north of the boundary between Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Austin and Charlotte Lucas have already been mentioned. They are John's great-great-grandparents and have been a brickwall for 20 years. The Federal Censuses prove that they lived in Dunkard Township from at least 1830 to 1871-1874 when they died.

Fairview Cemetery gravestone inscriptions were recorded by Dorothy Hennen in the summer of 1975 and included among the entries are

That these people were buried in Fairview Cemetery makes sense. As we'll see in the next section, the family farm was less than a mile away by road and barely a half mile away in direct line. Beth and I independently walked this entire cemetery and could NOT find markers for these people. While I expect that Austin's and Charlotte's markers might well be small and of poorer quality, Freeman owner several parcels of land and died in the 1890s. We should have been able to find theirs. (John accuses Austin of picking up his gravestone and hiding in the bushes until we left.)

The cemetery entrance is at coordinates 39.747138, -79.966680.

A late breaking addition: The Cornerstone Genealogical Society just came through with images of the stones for Austin and Freeman Lucas. We certainly walked by Freeman's without stopping. Austin's is broken though both parts are still there. The inscriptions are nearly illegible from acid rain and frost.

Where the Lucas Farm Once Was

Austin could not read nor write according to the census and he left an oral (nuncupative) will. Austin and Charlotte were poor, working as farm laborers, sharecroppers or tenant farmers until 1860 or so, when Austin finally bought 74 acres (29.74 hectares) of land. My grandfather Abner Henry Lucas was probably born on this property in 1862.

John used Austin's will, the 1872 deed from the estate to Freeman S. Lucas and Caldwell's 1876 Illustrated Combination Centennial Atlas of Greene County to locate the farm. The 1860 and 1870 censuses also confirm the location based on neighbors enumerated on either side of Austin's record. It was a matter of perhaps five minutes to get in the car at the cemetery and drive to coordinates 39.747664, -79.954743.

While we were taking pictures, the present owners stopped what they were doing and came over to find out what we were doing. A few minutes of explanation and we were digging in our car and they in their house for records to see if we could get them to match. Their title search from the courthouse in Waynesburg went back to 1897. Freeman died in 1894. So we were achingly close to overlapping but not quite. They told us that the present property is 40 of the 74 acres and that part of it had been strip mined for coal and then restored by the Shell Development Corp. from whom they had purchased the land. You certainly couldn't tell that it had been a scar in the earth, but over the hill, there is still an active coal mining operation. (Loaded trucks passed us every few minutes while we talked on the lawn.)

A mineralogical note on Greene County: The county is in Appalachia and sits atop the Marcellus Shale. It saw 19th century oil drilling, 20th century coal mining, and is now experiencing 21st century "fracking" for natural gas. Our motel parking lot had many Texas and Oklahoma license plates, and well service rigs from Halliburton, Schlumberger and similar energy industry companies were parked nearby. We were told we might find the Mordock cemetery noisy as there had been seismic testing in the area in the previous few days.

Less words and more pictures in the ensuing pages!