WEST MIDDLETOWN, PENNSYLVANIA
William T. Lindsey
Jane Murdock Fulcher
McKeever Study Library
West Middletown, PA 15379
About the Collection
Special Thanks to Ken McFarland for providing this information
to Mrs. Fulcher for granting permission to put it on this site.
REMINISCENCES and LIFE HISTORY--Captain James McElroy
Introductory Note by William T. Lindsey: The McElroy family is one of the oldest in Washington County. The emigrants, John McElroy and Mary, his wife, grandparents of Capt. James McElroy, were born in Scotland, from whence they came, when quite young, to Western Pennsylvania, locating in what is now known as Washington County (in Mt. Pleasant Township) when it was a wilderness.
Here Mr. McElroy bought 250 acres of fertile land, upon which he had built a large, double log house and also a horse mill which made all the flour for that section--better flour, it is said, than that made by the water mills. Eleven children were born in that house, all of [whom] grew to maturity, married and had families. Mrs. McElroy died in 1812 and Mr. McElroy in 1814. Their son, James, married Mary Smith of Irish lineage. They became the parents of James McElroy whose reminiscences are herewith [presented].
James McElroy, senior, retained the old homestead. To him and his wife Mary were born thirteen children -- eleven in this homestead and one, Ebenezer, the youngest, on the "mill farm" near West Middletown. One died in infancy. All of these twelve children married and had children, and they all belonged to the Campbellite or Disciple Church. The names names of the children, in the order of their birth, are as follows: John, Mary Ann (Mrs. William McKeever), Margaret (Mrs. David McClay), Harriet (Mrs. John Allison), Lucinda (Mrs. John F. Christie), James, Alexander, Rebecca (Mrs. Thomas Lane), Smith E., Selena (Mrs. W. J. Dodds), Levinia (Mrs. Basil Williams), and Ebenezer B. Three only are now living: James, Mrs. Dodds, and Mrs. Williams.
Captain James McElroy is now, and has been for a number of years, a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. He was born on the 16th day of October 1825. These reminiscences were received by Mr. Lindsey on May 17, 1910.
Reminiscences of James McElroy
Our family, which was a large one, even for that early day, lived for many years on a farm one and a quarter miles east of the village on the Pittsburgh road. On that farm my father built a large steam flouring mill and saw mill known as "McElroys Mills." In 1839 these mills were destroyed by fire. My father at once rebuilt the mills. In later years, after my father's death, these were known as "Wilson's Mills." They, too, a few years ago, as I am informed, were burned, and no mills are there today.
I was born and raised on a farm. When I was twelve years old my father owned five farms. With the aid of his boys and hired help, he managed these farms successfully. Farming in those days was conducted very differently from what it is today; trees were felled with an axe and, with the aid of a wedge and maul, were made into rails for fences.
The ground was broken with a single plow held by the hands, and the upturned soil pulverized by the harrow followed by the driver on foot; seed was sown broadcast by the hand and arm, and corn dropped by the hand and covered with the hoe; grain cut with a cradle by hand, and grass with a mowing scythe, and the hay gathered with a hand rake; grain threshed in winter time by hand with a flail or tramped out by horses on the barn floor. It was cleaned with a fanning mill turned by hand, so it took all winter to thrash and clean the grain.
Contrast that with the way farming is done today, particularly here in the middle west and the great west, and it will be seen that the young and the middle-aged farmer of today knows personally little of the struggles and hardships of the tillers of the soil of the early day.
The milling and manufacturing of flour were done then very differently from the way it is done now. Great stones were quarried out of flint and these dressed and rounded into mill stones, between which was ground the grain. Later, in the new mills, were French burrs, invented in France, imported and used in our country. My father had two of these French burrs in his mill mentioned.
About 1837, some of the young men of the village and neighborhood organized a band of music -- not altogether a brass band -- but some brass instruments were used. I recall some but not all of the members of this band. In all there were eighteen or twenty. Among them were John McElroy (my brother), Hugh Wilson, James E. Lindsey, Thomas Lindsey, John Allison, Stewart Adams, Samuel McCombs, Joseph McVay, James Boyd, James McGugin, and William McKeever.
I do not recall the name of the leader of this first band, nor where the band met for practice -- except a place in sink Runion's harness shop, a small one story building near McGugin's hotel. Sink, I think, was a member of the band. "Sink" was a nickname, and he was a unique character, such as is often found in a country village pictured in novels and caricatured on the stage. If the old town is without one today, it is the first time in its more than a century history.
At this time, and for several years before, there was also a military company of infantry. They uniformed themselves and the state furnished them guns and the other necessary equipment. I joined the company when I was fourteen years old. John Vasbinder was then, and for some years after, the captain. The band mentioned furnished the music for this company.
In the month of May, yearly, there was a public training or grand review called, generally, "the big muster day," when all the military companies in the county -- infantry, cavalry, and artillery -- met, and West Middletown was most frequently the general meeting place. Of the field and staff officers there were General James Lee of Cross Creek, General James Brice of Washington, Col. Asa Manchester of Independence, and Maj. Matthew Allison (brother of Dr. Thomas Allison) of Mt. Hope. There were many others as changes in officers were quite frequent.
These reviews were "the red letter days" of the village and, for the time at least, overshadowed every other thing in the country. Everybody, it seemed, was there -- white, black, men, women, and children. They came from near and far -- from Green County, Allegheny County, the Virginia borderline, in wagons, on horse back, afoot -- whole families, boy and girl lovers, girl chums, boy companions -- all bent on having a good time. And it seemed they always had it, rain or shine. Brass buttons and the glory and splendor of suggested warfare, then as always, called forth the admiration of the young, and interested the old. Glorious days were those!
But great in the eyes of the beholder as were the plumed generals with flashing swords and spirited chargers, or the drum majors with elastic step to the inspiring music of the bands, they sank almost into insignificance as compared with the interest aroused in the mind of the youngster when Dungy, the gingerbread man, put in an appearance.
"Old Dungy" they called him. Canonsburg claimed him, but he was the friend of every boy and girl, young man and woman, and it mattered not if he was colored. The pennies were saved for him -- those big copper cents now out of circulation but still to memory dear! The wants of children were few then and fortunately, too, for pennies were not as easily gotten. When you possessed one then it seemed as big as a saucer. But that penny got a good "hunk" of gingerbread. And oh such ginger cake! The boys used to say Dungy had gingerbread by the acre. Here and there on the street could be seen a bunch of boys walking about, each with a ten-inch square piece of gingerbread, talking, laughing, eating, having the time of their lives. And why not? The big muster and Dungy only came once a year.
Many ridiculous and laughable things happened at these musters. All kinds of people were there gathered -- men and women who had never been that far away from home, and for them it was simply wonderful and marvelous. For instance: a man from Green County rode into McGugin's hotel yard on a nervous, poorly broken two-year-old colt which was cutting up all kinds of didoes. He asked to put his colt in the stable. "No," the stableman said, "You can't do that for the stable is now full, but you can hitch your horse in that shed," pointing to the place where the hand fire-engine was kept.
The Green Countian looked at the highly polished brass-mounted engine with amazement and trepidation, and then asked, "Is that the Middletown band?" "Yes," replied the stableman." "Well," said the Green County man, "If that thing begins to play, my horse will break sure." This man had never seen, or heard play, a brass band in all his life, but he had heard much about the Middletown band.
The big musters were held on all sides of the village -- on the Wilson farm east of the town; on the Washington road east of the town; on the Judge McKeever farm on the edge of the town; also south of the town and out the Mount Hope road in those fields, where, I believe the last one was held. One or two reviews were held on the Gilbreath Stewart farm on the north side of the town.
One of the last great reviews at West Middletown was during the Mexican War. Governor Porter of Pennsylvania had ordered the general commanding the troops at that review to take a vote of all the companies on the question of volunteering for the Mexican war if needed. The general ordered the vote to be taken. Our company voted unanimously to go, except the captain who did not vote. All the other companies also voted to go. John Vasbinder was captain of our company: Noah Wherry was first lieutenant; I was second lieutenant. About twelve days later Capt. Vasbinder received an order from Governor Porter to hold the company in readiness to march on one day's notice to Pittsburgh and there to take boat for Mexico. The captain sent out orders for the members of our company to report to him at once.
When I received the word I was in the woods with a team hauling logs to our sawmill. I immediately took a horse from one of the teams, mounted it, and broke for Middletown. Here I found Captain Vasbinder and a majority of the company at McGugin's hotel. They were having trouble: Captain Vasbinder was making a speech against the Mexican war. He said that he thought the war was wrong and that he would not go. I may here add that there were many of the Whig party who were opposed to the Mexican war. We had a "red hot time" until finally first lieutenant Wherry made a motion that all who were in favor of joining with him to go to the Mexican war to step forward. All stepped forward except the captain. The motion was adopted. We at once organized to hunt recruits to fill up the company, myself as first liautonant, Ray Campbell as second lieutenant.
In a few days, however, word came from General Scott that General Taylor had whipped General Santa Anna at Buena Vista. It was thus seen that no more troops were needed and our enlistment was called off. Not long after that, Captain Wherry resigned and left for Ohio. I was then elected Captain. In about one year thereafter, the Mexican war ended and all the military companies throughout the County and the state of Pennsylvania, enlisted and ready when called for that war, were disbanded.
The Presidential campaign of 1860 is recognized by all as one of the greatest in the history of the country. Our own community in proportion to its size and importance played its full part in the campaign. And I am to be excused if I here thrust my own personality into its history. One of the many ways of arousing and keeping up interest in that campaign was in the organization of marching clubs -- uniformed and otherwise equipped, officered and drilled as if for most desperate warfare, with stimulating music to stir the blood and steady the foot. These clubs were called "wideawakes" and were enlisted for Abraham Lincoln, the great commoner and nominee of the Republican party.
The uniform, in some instances, was white duck trousers and oil-cloth caps and capes, and oil lamps on six foot poles. I organized a battalion of three hundred for that campaign.
There was then in West Middletown a brass band and a very good one too, but their instruments were old, battered and out of date. I proposed to this band that, if they would play for these wideawakes, I would get them new instruments and give them plenty of time to pay for them. They accepted the proposition. I bought them the instruments and also bought them caps, capes, and lamps.
Our wideawakes were drilled. The band aided in the work. The enthusiasm was great and interest keen. The boys soon became proficient in all the maneuvers and fancy movements. Their reputation extended through the county and to adjoining counties and over into Virginia. It was considered the best battalion of wideawakes in the county and invitations were many to attend meetings far and near. We went many places and were always enthusiastically received.
Let me tell you of a great demonstration we had in west Middletown that fall in September 1860. I think Washington County had been going democratic. We felt that the tide was turning the other way and that, if we could make a good showing, we might put the county in the republican column. I knew a number of the leading members of the Central Wide Awake Lincoln Club of Pittsburgh and believed I could get them and Young's band of thirty pieces--the best band at the time in Pittsburgh and one of the best anywhere. I secured that club and that band.
I then visited every family in Middletown. Their enthusiasm was thoroughly aroused, and the villagers promptly and cheerfully volunteered to take care of all who might appear, according to their best ability. Including the band there were about 325. The farmers volunteered their wagons without charges. And the big bus of Pleasant Hill Seminary was also tendered for the use of the band.
I marshalled these wagons and took them to Wellsburg. Across the river at La Grange, we met the Pittsburghers. Headed by the band, the great Central Lincoln Club (well officered and finely drilled and full of enthusiasm and proud of themselves and their cause) crossed the river and marched to Miller's Hotel in front of which they were loaded into wagons.
The excitement in the town was great. Men yelled themselves hoarse; women waved flags and handkerchiefs; and the boys followed in large numbers yelling like Indians. In fact the Wellsburgers were so stirred up that they determined to send their Lincoln wideawake marching club to our meeting, and they did. Middletown had had many exciting events before and many since, but never anything like that demonstration. Our company was large. All these companies, marching to stirring music with torches blazing and canes glistening, made a sight in that little town never to be forgotten by those who saw it. Throughout the state and everywhere in the east and great west were such scenes in every city and village. Democracy went down in Washington county, in Pennsylvania, in the nation. To say that the Republicans were elated would be putting it mildly. They were simply mad in their joy.
I was proud of the work we had done; praise came to us from every quarter. We all felt good and we determined to celebrate the event. A time was fixed. The Pittsburghers were so pleased with the good time they had had and with the good work we had done that they returned to our village in full force; so too did many clubs from the County at large and from the panhandle of Virginia and we had a rousing jollification. Though everybody kept open house, the crowd was so great that all could not find accommodation and many went hungry.
It is with pardonable pride, I am sure, that I mention my own work in this matter. I was prouder still of my own home and loyal friends. Galbreath Stewart told me afterwards that he never could have believed so many could be brought together, on any occasion, at West Middletown, that likely it could never be done again: it has not been done. My personal compensation was full and complete for the time and money expended, in that Washington county went Republican and has remained Republican.
Of the stirring times that followed the national political campaign of 1860, mention only need be made, for all know the result: The South declared a separation and an appeal to arms followed. Nowhere was the patriotic response quicker than in our neighborhood. When that wide awake battalion was disbanded, we immediately organized a military company one hundred strong. I was elected captain, Samuel Wilson first lieutenant, and Matthew Templeton second lieutenant. We uniformed ourselves. There were some old flint-lock muskets which had never been turned over to the state which we used for drilling purposes. We had a military band. I recall the following members: Alexander C. Hamilton, leader, Horatio T. Hamilton, John Q. A. Boyd, Alexander McElroy, Smith McElroy, John S. Jeffrey, Ebenezer B. McElroy, William L. Miller, James W. Murray, Barney McKeever, William H. Wilson, and Asa C. White. We were ready for three years service.
On behalf of the company I had made a sort of open agreement with General James S. Negley of Pittsburgh that we would join the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves. Meantime business matters called me to Wheeling, where I met Frank Pierpont, Governor, who had heard of our company. He urged me to have the company join the 1st Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. I told him we could not do it, as our Pennsylvania pride would not permit.
But he was persistent and brought Col. Thoburn and Major Duvall and other influential persons to me, who presented strong arguments in favor of helping them build up an army for the West Virginia service, the moral effect of which on the people at large and for the new state would do much to force peace and end the war.
I took the matter under consideration. The next morning, after I had finished my business and ready to return home, I met Thomas Sweeney whom I knew well. He said, "McElroy, I heard yesterday that you are thinking of bringing that damned black abolition company to join the 1st Regiment. A lot of us met last night and agreed that, if you brought that company down here, we would hang every last one of you. Or if not would at least mob you."
I replied, "Sweeney, you are trying to josh me and have a little fun this morning at my expense." "No," he said, "We mean every word of it." Another man whom we knew came along and said the same thing. That made me angry and I said, "You two men were too cowardly to sneak off with the two companies which had gone to Richmond and joined a rebel regiment two or three weeks ago." And I added, "Now, listen to me: I am going home today and tomorrow my company meets for drill. I shall tell the men of these threats and advise them to vote to join the 1st Regiment and if they do so vote, I will notify the Governor and Col. Thoburn and thus give you cowards a chance to hang or mob us; and I dare you or your gang to come near us. We will go down from Wellsburg on the boat in the afternoon to Wheeling and will march through the streets; and not one of you dare show his cowardly head for an evil purpose."
When I returned to Middletown, I explained matters to the men and they voted unanimously to join the 1st Regiment, West Virginia Volunteer Infantry. They also voted that, if those Wheeling rebels attempted to carry out their threats, a general cleaning would be made at any cost.
In a few days we were ready at West Middletown and took our departure in wagons. ;At the Forks (Independence) a fine meal was served us at the hotel. There three or four recruits joined us. When we reached Wellsburg we left the wagons, formed in line, the band at the head, and marched through the town to Miller's Hotel where another fine meal was served. All the people of the town, except the rebels, gathered about us.
Some of Wellsburg's leading businessmen loyal to the national government, and whom I knew well, came to me secretly and told me that they had heard from Wheeling that some or the rebels, knowing that our company was not equipped with guns, planned to mob us upon our arrival at Wheeling. We believed this to be no idle threat for there was great excitement throughout the panhandle. Many wealthy and influential citizens there were noncommittal to the general public. These, we believed, as a rule to be in great sympathy with the secession movement and that secretly they would by themselves or their agents do anything to prevent the purposes of our enlistment.
I told these friends that we had about thirty colt revolvers and would take the chance. Then it was that they further confided in me that some time before, they had quietly sent two men to Washington City and had borrowed from the Government one hundred stands of the new Springfield rifles with the accompanying equipments and a full supply of ammunition, and that they were stored in the basement of Campbell Tarr's store; that they would lend them to us on my personal bond; and I could, when the opportunity offered, turn them back to the Government, taking a voucher therefor, and send it to them. This was not made known to the men, but I marched them to the store and down to the basement, opened the big boxes and, to their astonishment, took out the rifles, and issued them to the men.
When the men got those accoutrements on and guns in hand, they looked and felt more like real soldiers. As they reappeared on the street thus equipped, so sudden and unexpected was the transformation that the townspeople were paralyzed in their astonishment. Behind the band playing patriotic airs, we proudly marched to the boat. On the top deck we formed in line with fixed bayonets, making a fine appearance in presence of a large number of men, women, and children there gathered.
We were in fine shape when the boat pulled out and headed for Wheeling. Then it was that I made known to the men the reported threats of the proposed mobbing when we would reach Wheeling. But when I looked over the men, strong young fellows and brave, and saw those Springfield rifles which seemed almost to speak success, I had no fear of the mob. Yet I knew the terrible tension on both sides and how easily a fight might be precipitated. As a precaution I required each man to take a solemn oath that he would not fire a shot without my order, or to leave the company. All took the oath. As a further guard against the sudden violence of the crowd on shore, I directed to the band [not] to commence playing until the boat landed. This was done.
The wharf was black with people. They were silent. It was like the stillness that precedes the storm. At least 7000 were there -- men, women, and children. As soon as the plank was shoved out, Col. Thoburn and Maj. Duvall came aboard and up to the hurricane deck where we stood in line.
Col. Thoburn, seemingly much surprised, said, "Captain, where did you get those guns?"
I replied, "Colonel, that's a secret. Can't tell you, but we have them and they are loaded."
He further said, "There is great excitement here, and I think you had better not attempt to march through that crowd but rather to march quietly up the wharf to the bridge and over the bridge to the island, and into camp and thus save possible bloodshed."
I replied, "Colonel, I can't think of doing that, for, when I was here last time, I told those rebels that I would march my men through the streets and give the people a chance to mob or hang us if they dared. Now we are fully prepared to meet them from the point of a pin to the mouth of a canon. But, Colonel, as I told them, they are too cowardly to show their heads."
We marched off the boat. I placed a file of 4 men in front, with bayonets fixed, who opened a way through the crowd. The band followed playing most spiritedly America. The crowd broke loose and yelled and howled at us, calling us "nigger thieves," "nigger lovers," and other rough things. When we got pretty well up the main street, one brick or stone was thrown. Fortunately it missed us and hit one of the sympathizing crowd. We crossed the wire bridge to the island and into Camp Carlisle. What followed is army history. But you have thus seen how it came about that we entered the service of West Virginia instead of our own beloved state of Pennsylvania.
The band, after it was filled up, was mustered in as the regimental band. The following are some of the Middletown members of that band mustered in: Alexander C. Hamilton, leader, Horatio T. Hamilton, John Q. A. Boyd, Ebenezer B. McElroy, John S. Jeffrey, William I. Miller, James W. Murray, Barney McKeever, William H. Wilson, Asa C. White, and Philip Young of Pittsburgh. Men were picked up at different places to complete the band.
John Brown was a buyer of wool and dealt in sheep. Washington County was largely engaged in sheep raising and wool growing of the best quality. Fine sheep were found on every large farm. West Middletown was a center of that industry for that part of the country. Into this field John Brown came as early, I think, as 1840, or in the 40s, representing the firm of Perkins & Brown of Springfield, Mass, heavy buyers of wool. He made his headquarters at my father's house near the town and at the house of Matthew McKeever, west of the town. Brown bought wool in this part of the country for over three years, shipping it to Springfield.
Brown was an earnest, enthusiastic advocate of the abolition of slavery, as was also my father. Both were well informed on all subjects of the day and interesting talkers. I well remember that Brown would come over to our house in the evening, after hard riding all day in the neighborhood buying wool. Our men neighbors would gather in, mainly to listen to the talk between Brown and my father on the abolition of slavery. Brown was desperately in earnest and very bitter in his denunciation of slavery and the apologizers of it. My father in one of these talks, even now well remembered, declared his belief that slavery was becoming stronger and more defiant instead of weaker and less aggressive, and that, in the providence of God, it would go down in blood before the end came. How truthful that prophecy!
In 1841 or 1842, If I am not mistaken in the time, Perkins & Brown failed. They had on hand a large lot of wool bought at high rates, when a sudden decline in the market came, and they were unable to realize on their wool. Matthew McKeever had bought much wool for them and was an endorser on their paper to a large amount. By this failure he lost heavily.
In those days many escaping slaves found their way to West Middletown. That generally meant safety and freedom, for they found helping hands in Judge Thomas McKeever and Matthew McKeever, his brother, near the town, and food and raiment and a hiding place from which at night they would be taken to another station on the underground railway in the northern part of the County, and on to other stations on the same road until they reached Canada in safety.
I remember once two slaves came to our house, directed there by Matthew McKeever, with request to my father to take them to Paris and to deliver them to a man there "who would finish the job," that is, get them to Canada. Father directed me to hitch up the family carriage and take these men to Paris and to deliver them to the man mentioned. I obeyed orders. We traveled all night. I delivered them and the message to the man who, after feeding the men and myself, started at once on his mission. Soon after, I learned of their safe arrival in Canada. I was then a little past fifteen.
Here is another. An escaping slave, footsore, naked, hungry, tired and scared, in some way struck the village. He was quickly taken to the McKeever station. Learning that the master was in hot pursuit, the slave was concealed in the barn. The master and his bloodhound found the station. The master insisted on searching the barn. The dog found the slave which the master proceed to take. McKeever interfered, at the same time calling some men from his nearby field. He told the slave owner that they would take the slave to Middletown before a justice of the peace to have it legally determined whether the man could be taken back to slavery. Thomas Odenbaugh was the justice.
A boy on horseback came to our place in the woods where we were cutting saw logs with a message from McKeever to my father, who immediately mounted a horse from the team and was off at once for the town. When he reached the squire's office he found it full of men. There too was the slave and the master, his dog at his feet. The situation was hastily explained.
My father, addressing the master, said, "Is that your dog, Sir?" "Yes," the master replied. "Is he a bloodhound?" The answer was, "Yes." Then my father, looking around upon the crowd I said, "I move that this bloodhound does not leave this town alive."
Instantly everyone said, "second the motion." In less than ten minutes that dog was hanging to the limb of a tree in front of the office, and the master on his way out of town, believing it wasn't healthy for him to remain a minute longer than necessary. In three days thereafter that slave was in Canada a free man.
Let me here state that some years later  the law was changed so that if a slave made his escape into a free state the master could go to any man and order him to assist in catching the slave that he might be taken back to bondage, and, if the man refused, he could be arrested and severely punished.
West Middletown may well be proud of the Campbell family. For many years they were a most important part of the religious and educational life of the village and vicinity. Thomas Campbell and Alexander, his son, and Jane, his daughter, who became Mrs. Matthew McKeever, did much to awaken in the minds of the people the importance of spiritual and mental betterment. For many years Thomas and Alexander preached there without money and without price; and Thomas and Jane had private schools. The educational work of one and the other, or both, extended over a period of half a century.
The leaven that worked them is working today. These two men are acknowledged to have been among the world's greatest reformers. John Calvin, Martin Luther, and the Wesleys have no more enduring place in history.
In the first days of the church, the meetings for worship and organization were held in private houses in the village and on the farms of the members. They often met in my father's house on the old homestead farm and in a brick schoolhouse on one of my father's farms. As I have before stated, all the McElroys were members of the Disciple or Campbellite church. My father and mother and all my father's brothers and sisters were charter members.
The time will likely come, if indeed it is not already here, when that spot -- a mile or so south of the town, on brush Run, where a century ago was erected the first house of worship for the followers of these two men -- will be sacred in the eyes of thousands and, were it easily accessible to the general public, would be a pilgrimage for the thousands of our people and of the others who hold the Bible as the true creed for the guidance of humanity, as expounded by the Campbells and their followers.
This building, some years later, was moved into the village where it was used successively as a blacksmith shop, a post office, and carriage shed; and, as I am informed, is still standing. When it is gone beyond the power to reclaim and is destroyed, the wonder will be that it was not restored and preserved -- a lasting regret. A brick church was built by the Disciples in the western part of the town. I hauled the brick and stone and lumber and all the other material used in it. 
In their early work the Campbells were unpopular with all the other denominations, and their church organization was not recognized by them. But the Campbells believed they were right and their cause would succeed. They lived to see a permanent structure erected on the foundation they had laid. Were they present today in flesh they would see more than a million and a half loyal, enthusiastic and devoted followers, whose numbers are constantly increasing and to whom the doors of other denominations are wide open.
Thomas Campbell was of most pleasing address, mild and gentle in manner, a hard and conscientious worker. At the same time he was courageous. It took courage, backed by ability, to start such a work among Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, particularly when he himself was of the same country and had been educated and ordained and at work in the Presbyterian church. It naturally created stubborn resistance to all appeals for fair play in the contest.
Alexander was more aggressive. He was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 185 or 190 pounds, and straight as an arrow. His voice was full and rich with good carrying power -- an easy talker, fascinating in conversation, logical and convincing in argument, and one of the most eloquent of his day and generation. I knew him personally and well from my earliest boyhood until his death, and I regard him as the most interesting, instructive and powerful preacher I have ever heard or known.
Recalling the hauling of the materials for the brick church mentioned reminds me that I hauled all the pine timber and other lumber used in the Pleasant Hill Seminary buildings, from Wellsburg and Pittsburgh. I had built up one of the finest six-horse teams in all our county. I hauled flour from my father's mill to Wellsburg and Pittsburgh and over the mountains to Cumberland, Maryland, on the national pike, from whence it was shipped on cars to Baltimore. There was no railroad west of Cumberland until 1850 when the B & O came through the mountains to the Ohio River. All the traffic was carried on by wagons to and from the west of the mountains, and all travel was by 4- and 6-horse stage coaches.
My team at that time was harnessed according to the fashion of the day -- bells over the harness on each horse, bells that made a lot of music. When I got my new, large road wagon on which I could load 40 barrels of flour, and my team all in shape as I wanted it, I had a spell of "big head," and had it bad -- never had it over anything else I ever did.
The old town and surrounding county, its people, have a warm place in my heart, and, though I have had a busy life amidst many fierce struggles, I have never forgotten the home of my birth and the dear associations of my boyhood and early manhood.
Life History of Capt. James McElroy
When sixteen years old I commenced driving and handling the big six-horse team hauling flour from my father's mill to Pittsburgh, twenty-five miles away, and also to Wellsburg, West Virginia, on the Ohio River.
After my father died in 1848, I loaded with flour at the mill and hauled it over the mountains on the National Turnpike to Cumberland, Md., then the termination of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
I had one of the best teams on the road at that time -- and there were hundreds of them -- the best horses, harness and wagon, and I had also what we called wagon bells which were worn over the hames of each horse. That was the only work I ever did that gave the "big head" and a large amount of pride. Two years later the Baltimore and Ohio was finished to Wheeling on the Ohio River, and it stopped all the great traffic by teaming and stage coach from west to the east as quick as a shot out of a gun, and at once destroyed a great industry and left hundreds of men idle.
When I was fourteen years of age, I joined a military company at West Middletown and when eighteen years of age I was commissioned captain of the company by Governor Porter of Pennsylvania. In 1848 my father's estate was settled up. I took the old homestead farm and built a large frame house near the site of the old log house my grandfather built. That house today is one of the best houses in that neighborhood.
On March 23rd, 1848, I was married to Miss Mary Daugherty of West Middletown, Pa., and at once moved into the new house on the old farm, and from that time up to 1861 I was engaged in farming and in sheep and wool. I was also engaged in buying and shipping fat sheep and hogs to Philadelphia and New York.
After the war broke out I got my Military Company together and took them to Wheeling, W. Virginia with the Brass Band that belonged to the company and went into camp at Camp Carlisle on the island opposite Wheeling. On the ninth day of September of 1861 this company of ninety-six men was mustered into the First Regiment W. Virginia Volunteer Infantry as Company "B."
I chose to be mustered in as adjutant of the Regiment simply because I was entitled to take two horses and could go horse-back in place of going on foot, which I did not like in those days. The Regiment, with other troops, took the field in November 1861. We first met the enemy at Romney, W. Virginia in the mountains. We whipped them and went into camp there. Soon after, we fought the battle of Blue's Gap in the mountains, and whipped them badly, taking most of their artillery and some prisoners.
At this time we were under the command of Gen. Kelly, but I will not go into details of our marches, skirmishes, and battles. Suffice it to say that our fighting and marching was in the mountains of W. Virginia, Maryland, and especially in all the battles in the great Shenandoah Valley except one.
We were under several Generals during our campaigning -- First Gen. B. F. Kelly, General Lander, General Shields, General Pope, General Siegel, General Hunter, and General Phillip Sheridan who commanded us in the Valley in the fall of 1864 and who in one month fought three great battles whipping the Confederate General Early each time.
In the last great battle at Cedar Creek General Early caught General Sheridan absent from the army at Washington, D. C. He made a flank movement on our left in the night and flanked our corps -- the eighth, General Crook's -- making a complete surprise, captured all our camp equipage, 22 pieces of artillery and 1500 men, driving us back three miles. Until General Sheridan came from Winchester about half past ten o'clock we did not know whether school was going to keep very long or not.
When Sheridan came and rode along the lines to let the army see him, a tremendous cheer went up and Sheridan could have led that Army, every man of them, to death if need be, not withstanding the demoralization in the early morning. ... He rode along in our front with only one staff officer with him, took off his hat and shouted, "Boys, it's all right. I've got the old cripple just where I want him." (General Early had lost a leg and wore a wooden one.) "Now do your duty like men and I'll show you the worst whipped rebel army by four o'clock the world ever saw."
And at four o'clock to the minute the great charge was made by the entire army -- cavalry and infantry -- and the enemy broke. We captured six thousand prisoners, seventy-two pieces of artillery with most of the caissons, five hundred ambulances loaded with wounded, four hundred and fifty baggage wagons, ten thousand stands of small arms -- in short Early's army was ruined.
I will relate a little incident that occurred the next day. Our entire Brigade was detailed to guard the prisoners, and, while in conversation with the Captain of a North Carolina Regiment, he said to me, "If you all had not received reinforcements of twenty-five or thirty thousand men, we would have driven you to Harper's Ferry."
I said to him, "You are mistaken, we did not receive any reinforcements." He said, "0 yes you did for what were you all cheering so for, if you did not get reinforcements?
I said, "Yes, we got one man, General Sheridan, and he was worth twenty-five thousand to us just at that time."
This was the last battle that we participated in, for soon after this battle my Regiment was sent to Cumberland, Md., and in December we were consolidated with the Second W. Virginia Infantry. As my time was out in September and the ranks of these two regiments were so decimated that the two together did not make more than one good battalion, myself and several of the officers were mustered out at our own request.
I neglected to say that in September 1862, after the second battle of Bull Run, "Co. D" of my Regiment had become very much demoralized, owing to having lost their Captain by death. My Colonel persuaded me to take command of this company and build it up, which I did.
My Colonel, Joseph Thoburn, was killed in the great battle of Cedar Creek. A braver man never walked on the earth. He was in command of the First Division of the Eighth Corps, General Crook commanding. My regiment was engaged in thirty-six battles and many skirmishes, and in very many severe marches and always had the confidence and high regard of all our many brigades, divisions, corps and Army commanders.
My brother wrote me that he could sell the farm to a neighbor for ninety dollars an acre cash and they could make a public sale of the sheep and the other stock at good prices. They had sold the clip of wool at $1.25 per pound, averaging 8 pounds to the fleece; and sheep were high in proportion to the price of wool. Horses, cattle, and hogs also. So I wrote my wife and brother to go ahead and sell the farm and the stock and everything else, and to have my family move into Washington. All of which was promptly done, so when I left the army, December 1864, and came home I found my family in Washington, Pa. I was short on farms and out of business. We had four children, two boys and two girls but one of the boys had died when five years of age in 1860.
In December 1865 I moved with my family to Davenport, Iowa, and in January of 1866 I opened a hide and leather store there in connection with my brother John's tannery in Washington, Pa., and was actively engaged in buying hides and selling leather in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota, also in buying wool and grain and shipping east.
On April 11th, 1867, my wife died. In March of 1874 I moved to Chicago and at once bought a membership in the Board of Trade and engaged in grain commission business in connection with leather, hides, and wool, and have been engaged in the commission business on the Board of Trade ever since.
On April 8th I married Elizabeth M. Clough of Antrim, Mich. My children are all married, and I have now living seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. I am glad to say that I am very happy in my own family and in all the families of my children. I have been a member of the First Baptist Church of Chicago seventeen years -- Dr. P. S. Hinson, Pastor. They elected me Deacon nine years ago. I am now in my seventy-sixth year, and I presume I am living on borrowed time.
I am six feet one inch in height. Weigh one hundred and ninety pounds. Have always been active and a hard working man. Have been successful in making money in almost every enterprise I have engaged in and yet have large losses in giving credit to my friends and customers. I do not com- plain, as I have so much to be thankful for. The dear Lord has greatly blessed me and mine in many and various ways.
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