William and Samuel Moorhead

Periodically I go looking for potential Revolutionary War patriots in my own tree, hoping to apply new skills to push back another generation on any branch that looks likely. Things don’t always go as I planned however.

One of my proven ancestors is William Moorhead, probably born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1747, and is buried in New Castle, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. The tombstone itself hasn’t been found, but reference to it gives the date of death as 27 May 1819.1  His wife was Elizabeth Barnett.2 None of that is in question. The question is, who are William Moorhead’s parents, and, more importantly, can I find a new patriot?

During my early days of adding ancestors based on shaky leaf hints, I added Samuel Moorhead and Euphemia Fergus, basically because that’s what everyone else had, so why not? Somewhere along the line I began to question that policy, then pruned my tree of all the unproven ‘ancestors’. They weren’t my ancestors until I could find something to make them seem at least likely.

I began by looking at the Samuel Moorhead who was most likely to have been married to Euphemia Fergus and had a son named William. This Samuel Moorhead left behind a Will recorded in Franklin County, Pennsylvania Will Book A pg 17. The Will is dated 1777, proven 11 Feb 1785, and in it he named his wife as “Yuphian”. He also names the following heirs: his daughter Martha and her husband Thomas Espey, sons Thomas Moorhead, Alexander (200 acres in Hamilton Twp.), Samuel (200 acres, part of same tract called Locust Hill), son Joseph (200 acres adjoining John Sullivan’s land), son William (200 acres known as Blacks Bottom). He also names a daughter Jane Mitchell and a son Fergus.

I can see how tempting it is to latch on to this Will, and say that the William named therein is the same William Moorhead 1747-1819. It would be totally awesome for me, cuz: New Patriot! Sigh.

Moorhead quit claim 01
Franklin County, Pennsylvania Deed Book 4 pg 235

Above is the first part of a quit claim deed where Alexander strives to clear up any misunderstanding about the land he inherited and dispense with any claims from family on that land. He is currently living in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania and wants to sell the land to his brother William.

Moorhead quit claim 02
Franklin County, Pennsylvania Deed Book 4 pg 236

There can be no mistake that the wife of this William Moorhead, heir of Samuel Moorhead of Hamilton Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is named Mary. Not Elizabeth. That’s new. The rest of the page, and the next accomplish the sale between Alexander and Margaret his wife to William Moorhead of Hamilton Township, and is dated 29 Dec 1797.

Let’s look at William Moorhead and his wife Mary.

Moorhead, William two different men

The 1800 Census shows him living in Hamilton Township. William Moorhead 1747-1819 is the gentleman living in Derry Township in Westmoreland County. Clearly two different men.

Here is what I have discovered so far about the rest of this family:

Franklin Co Will Book B pg 228: letters of administration were granted to John Moorhead and William Bleakley on 20 Nov 1804 for the estate of Fergus Moorehead.

Westmoreland Co, PA Will Book 1 part 1 pg 143 is the Will of Margaret Moorhead ‘relict of the late Alexander Moorhead deceased’ dated 9 Apr 1798, proved 18 May 1798. Alexander and at least some of his sons routinely appeared in the Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration lists for Rostraver. It is safe to believe he probably died there, even though Margaret’s Will doesn’t specify.

It would appear Joseph Moorhead continued to live in Hamilton as he appears in the 1800 Census there. Not sure what happened to Samuel Jr or Thomas, although the document above has as a witness Thomas Moorhead Jr.

Edit 5/9/18: Jane Moorhead married Alexander Mitchell and moved to Kentucky. Franklin Co, Pennsylvania Deed Book 5 pg 78.

What is important is that recorded in Franklin County, Pennsylvania Will Book B page 412, Mary Moorhead was granted letters of administration for William Moorhead on 12 Jun 1810.

Moorhead, Mary letters of admin

This completes the picture of the William Moorhead named in the Will of Samuel Moorhead. His birth year is unknown, but he was 45+ in 1800; he died before 12 Jun 1810. It appears he lived his entire adult life in Hamilton Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and at no time lived in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Granted, there are males named in Westmoreland County, PA with a similar naming convention as this family, but the Samuel Moorhead of Hamilton Township is not the father of my William Moorhead. I need to look elsewhere.


1Book of biographies: the volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.. Buffalo, N.Y.: Biographical Pub. Co., 1897, pg 175

2Book of biographies: the volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania.. Buffalo, N.Y.: Biographical Pub. Co., 1897, pg 29


One thought on “William and Samuel Moorhead

  1. I am a descendent of Samuel Moorhead. My great grandma was Nancy O’Linda Moorhead, who married Willis Boyd Morrow. Your chase and findings are very similar to mine, as well. -Sean


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