Chapter XIII: Belmont
first members of the Wise and MacMillan families to come to Belmont County, Ohio,
were John Wise and his wife Jane. They were married around 1805, presumably
in or around York County, Pennsylvania, although no marriage record has
been found.137 John was known to have visited Belmont County in 1808 or 1809 most likely to scout out the area, but the family was counted on the 1810 census in Harford County, Maryland just across the Mason-Dixon line from the MacMillan farm in York County, Pennsylvania. Census day in 1810 was August 6, so they were in Maryland on that date, but on December 4 they had completed a land transaction in Belmont County in which they acquired 160 acres of land for $400. The
land that was bought is on a hill just west of the present day village
of West Wheeling, and was located just across the river from Wheeling,
Virginia, (now West Virginia). Other Wises and MacMillans soon followed.
The Jacob Wise family came in 1811, the George Wise family in 1813 and Samuel Wise came soon after. So by 1817 four of the five Wise brothers (Jacob, John, George and Samuel) were living near by to each other in Belmont County. Only the oldest brother, Henry, still lived back in eastern Pennsylvania. In 1817 Samuel married Anna Nesbit in Belmont County, and in 1824 and 1827 he obtained patents on two parcels of land, but sometime in the 1830s he moved on to Delaware County, near Columbus. The other three brothers lived here for the rest of their lives, although by 1817 Jacob had died. Family lore suggests that he died as a result of being kicked by a horse.138
Jane’s father, George MacMillan, moved here by 1817 and owned a home and farmland in Pultney Township, the same township where John and Jane also lived. George McMillan had left his aged parents behind in York County. When his father, James MacMillan, died in 1818, at the age of ninety-one, George sold off to his son-in-law, John Wise, every bit of his property, including household items and crops in the ground, and returned to York County.139 In his will, James McMillan left his property to his wife, Jean (Jane), to use during her lifetime, with the residual to go to his son, George, and his granddaughter, Maria Carter, after Jane’s death. Possibly George returned with his mother to Ohio. On the 1820 census in Smith Township in Belmont County, there is an entry for Jane McMillan, over age forty-five, as head of household. There is one male and one female, each between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six, living with her. Whether or not this is James’ widow isn’t known (MacMillan was a very common name here), but in any case, George eventually returned to Belmont County. He had nine children. He died in Belmont County in 1838. His wife, Sarah, probably preceded him in death, since in his will he mentions each of his nine children, but not his wife.140
Philip and Mary Wise, the parents of these Wise children, also came to Belmont County, probably about 1820. They did not buy any property here, but they are buried here in Rock Hill Cemetery. Philip died in 1829 and Mary in 1846. This entire extended family appeared to be closely associated with Rock Hill Presbyterian Church in Pultney Township, where most of the family lived.
John Wise’s wife, Jane, died on August 11, 1828. John would subsequently marry again three more times. One Belmont County descendant
maintains that he fathered as many as nineteen children. I have found the names
of fifteen children, who grew to adulthood and evidence of four children who
survive childhood, for a total of nineteen. Because of the numerous Wise
families in Belmont County, there has to be room left for some errors, but this count appears to be exact. In the
family cemetery plot in the Rock Hill Cemetery #1 in Pultney Township, there
are three graves whose markers show the names of William, Alexander and Jeremiah.
A fourth stone, of the same shape and size has no inscription that is still readable.
These likely are the graves of four children who did not live into adulthood.
The stones are very old, and no other inscriptions are still legible but
they lie in the plot where John and his first wife, Jane, are buried.141 Census
records show that there was one son born before 1810 and there is no evidence
of him as an adult and so he probably is represented by one of the stones mentioned above, but there is no mention of any of the others.
There are marriage records that show marriages of John Wise to Lucy Porter in 1829, Isabel Blain in 1833, and Elizabeth Hitchcock in 1843. In each case John remarried within about a year of the wife‘s death. The first fifteen children, including seven daughters and seven sons, and one gender unknown, probably belong to John and Jane. These would include, Harriet born about 1806, Mary born October 25, 1807, Sarah born about 1809, Jane Ann born about 1811, John W. born about 1813, Catherine born about 1814, Darcas born about 1815, Henry (our ancestor) born August 23, 1818, George born January 3, 1820, Maria born February 14, 1825, and John Jr., born in 1826. I am tentatively including the four in the cemetery plot suspected of not surviving childhood.
The next daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1832, would have
been the daughter of John Wise and Lucy Porter. Isabel Blain bore him a daughter,
Rachel, in 1838 and a son, Westly, in 1840. The last child, a son Isaac, was
born in 1844, after his marriage to Elizabeth Hitchcock. On the 1850 census
records, John and Elizabeth are living with their children, Elisabeth, Rachel,
Westly, and Isaac. This comes to nineteen children.
John Wise died in 1856. In his will he left money
or property to his wife, Elizabeth, and to several children.142 The
children mentioned are daughters, Sarah (Cunningham), Mary (Alexander), Jane
Ann (Wise), Maria (Tarbet) and Elizabeth (Darby), and sons, Westly and Isaac.
In 1860 the household consists of Elizabeth, her stepson, Westly, her son Isaac
and presumably a boarder, Rachael J. Anderson, age 39, a seamstress. Westly’s
occupation is listed as river boat pilot. In 1879, a Bellaire, Ohio, newspaper
article lists him as being killed when a boiler exploded aboard a riverboat
that he was piloting.
Sons Henry and George are not mentioned in the will
and this is probably because they both obtained property from their father
when they moved to Gallia County in the 1840s. Several other daughters, as well as John
W. and John Jr. are not mentioned either and this might have been for the same
reason. None of the adult children preceeded their father in death.
“Dr. Bob” Keefer, who is a descendant of
the George Wise who settled in Belmont County in 1813, is currently living
on the property where John Wise first settled in 1810. Although the house is
very old, it is not the original dwelling. It does contain some carpentry elements
that are thought to have been made by George Wise, and reincorporated into
the house when it was rebuilt.
John Wise must have been an energetic and capable man.
With so many wives and children, he must have had enormous obligations, and
yet throughout his life and even afterwards, as evidenced by his will, he was
able to distribute property and money to his family. He was the pioneer who
was the first one in the family to make the trek west and settle what was then
virgin territory. Twice there are records that show him able to make large
transactions in the first seven years after coming to Ohio and starting out a
completely new life. A large part of the credit for his success certainly has
to also go to his wives. I suspect that they were also hard working and remarkable
There were at least nine
Wise descendants who ultimately moved from Belmont County to Gallia County. Three
of Jacob Wise’s children, Mary, Elizabeth, and Samuel and six of John’s
children, Henry, George, Darcus, Catherine, John Jr. and Mary made that move
at various times. The information about Jacob’s children comes from
a book, “Our
Pioneer Country Doctor from the Journal of Jesse S. Spriggs.” One of
daughters, Susan or Susanna, married Jesse Spriggs and one of the descendants
wrote the family history. A photograph of Susanna in that book is the oldest known photo in the entire family.
Jacob’s oldest daughter, Mary Ann, married John Glenn in Belmont County in 1825, but it is stated that they lived later in Gallia County, at Raccoon Island. Later census records show a Glenn family in the northern part of Gallia County, but it is not known if this is the same family. Raccoon Island is the post office in Clay Township near where the Henry Wise family later resided. (The Raccoon Island community was flooded over by a dam built on the Ohio River in the 1930s. It was an island in the Ohio River just upstream from where Raccoon Creek empties into the Ohio.) The second daughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas Hamilton in Belmont County. Their oldest daughter, Julia, married John's son, George (and so they were first cousins, once removed) and both of these families later migrated to Gallia County. The youngest son, Samuel, married Margaret Hinkle. They moved to Gallia County in 1855. Census records indicate that he worked as a farmer and undertaker. One of his sons, Jacob Wise, married Henry’s daughter, Martha, who would have been his second cousin and who is my grandmother’s sister. (There are three instances where Jacob Wise descendants married descendants of John Wise).
Our ancestor, Henry Wise, moved to Clay Township in
Gallia County in 1840. Two of his sisters, Catherine Cunningham and Darcus
Cole, were already living there. In March 1840 he obtained one hundred-sixty
acres of land in Clay Township from Isaac Fickle, but his father, John Wise,
paid for the land. An adjacent eighty acre piece of land was bought by John Wise
from Nahum Ward in September. John and Isabel sold this land to Henry in 1842.
John paid $1100 for it and sold it to Henry for $100. Henry is identified as
son in the March, 1840 deed and as far as I know this is the only place where
there is proof of that relationship. A few years later, a similar transfer
of property takes place with another son, George Wise, being the recipient.
These brothers lived close to each other in Clay Township for most of the
rest of their lives. Very late in life George and his wife Julia moved on to
Kansas with the family of Julia's niece.
Henry’s sister, Mary Alexander, moved to Gallipolis
in the 1850s. She had married John Alexander in Belmont County in 1829, and
they moved to Delaware County near Columbus, Ohio. They had 6 children. When
the children were very small, the father, John Alexander, died. Mary then moved
back to Belmont County where her family resided, and many years later moved to
Gallia County. She was living in Gallipolis working as a milliner when the 1860
census was taken. Her youngest son, John MacMillan Alexander, later became mayor
of Gallipolis. Mary died in February of 1863, just a few weeks before her brother,
There was some controversy about whose daughter
Mary Alexander was. The marriage certificate in Belmont County contains a
statement from the clerk that John Alexander is of legal age, and that Mary Wise
"has the consent of her father, George Wise, who was present." This led to the
erroneous belief among her descendants that she was George’s daughter.
However, she is identified in John Wise’s will as his daughter, and George
Wise was only fifteen years old and still unmarried when Mary was born. Wills
are considered the most reliable of all genealogical documents. It is likely
that George Wise was present at the ceremony and was misidentified as the father
by the clerk.
Philip and Mary Wise had two additional children. The only daughter, Catherine, married a John
Philip Poole in Pennsylvania. They also migrated west, first
to Belmont County and later on to Delaware County, Ohio. Catherine's son, George Poole, married Sarah Alexander who was a sister to the John Alexander married to the Mary Alexander in the previous paragraph. They moved to Gallia County. When Henry
widow, Malinda, had some of her property sold at a sheriff’s sale in
1872, it was George Poole who was the buyer. The Pooles lived in the same township as the Henry and George Wise families.
There was also a Joseph Wise on the Belmont County census in 1840 and who bought property in West Wheeling where John Wise lived. This was likely a brother of John Wise, who would have been born after the 1800 census. Joseph married Elizabeth Moore and they had a daughter, Ann Wise, born in 1824 who died in 1845 and who is buried in the same cemetery plot as John and his first wife Jane. Mary Wise would have been 41 years old in 1800 and so would likely have been Joseph’s mother.
So six of the children of Philip and Mary Wise (Jacob, Catherine, John, George, Samuel and Joseph) ended up in Ohio. Only the oldest, Henry, was left behind in Pennsylvania. He was married to Margaret Anderson. They had eight children and the family was still living in York County, Pennsylvania, at least into the late 1800's.