From Philadelphia to Millbrook
John Hart was a Quaker who emigrated Witney, Oxfordshire, England toPhiladelphia in 1682. Around 1850 descendants of John Hart settled in MillbrookTownship, Peoria County, Illinois This story follows one hundred seventy yearsand six generations of Harts from their arrival in Philadelphia to theirsettlement in Millbrook.
Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn by Charles II to repay debts owedto William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. It was a proprietary colony andhad more freedom than crown colonies. William Penn offered complete religiousliberty and easy terms for land that resulted in thousands of immigrates toPennsylvania, mostly Quakers, from England, Wales, Germany, France and Holland.
John Hart was born in 1651, the son of Christian Hart and Mary Bleckley. Hisname appears in the Witney Society of Friends meeting records starting in 1675.When William Penn announced he was starting a new colony, John Hart decided toseek his fortune in the new world. He purchased from Penn one thousand acres ofland to be located in the new colony after Hart’s arrival. John and his sisterMary left Witney early in 1682. It is a family legend that John and his sisterarrived in Philadelphia two months before Penn who arrived in October 1682.
On his arrival, John Hart settled on five hundred acres on the Poquessing inByberry Township. He also was granted five hundred acres in WarminsterTownship, Bucks County. In September 1683 John Hart married Susannah Rush, whowas the daughter of William and Aurelia Rush. John Rush, the father of William,commanded a troop of horse in Cromwell’s army. Friends' monthly meeting recordsshow John and Susannah were engaged to be married in 1681 prior to leavingEngland.
John Hart was active in Colony government and in the Society of Friends. Hewas elected a member of the first Assembly from the county of Philadelphia, andhis name is on the first charter of government, dated February 25, 1683, whichPenn granted the colonists. He was a leading Quaker until the George Keithschism of 1691. He took sides with Keith against Penn and left the Friendsalong with Keith, Rush, and many other families. In 1697 John joined the PennypackBaptist Church. Some time between 1693 and 1698 he sold his Byberry estate andmoved to Warminster Township, where he died in 1714.
John and Susannah had five children – John, Thomas, Joseph, Josiah and Mary.John (1684-1763) married Eleanor Crispin who was granddaughter of WilliamCrispin an officer under Admiral Penn and first cousin to William Penn. Johnwas justice of the peace, high sheriff and coroner. In 1750 he erected thestone Warminster family mansion, which today is in splendid condition, the homeof Donald Brennan and Dorothy Rose-Brennan at 1145 Charter Road, Warminster,Pennsylvania. One of his sons, Colonel Joseph Hart, was very prominent in theRevolutionary War, and another Oliver Hart was the pastor of the First BaptistChurch of Charleston, South Carolina, for thirty years.
Joseph Hart married Elizabeth Coreen. Nothing is known of Josiah Hart. MaryHart died in 1721, unmarried.
Thomas Hart, the second son of John Hart (1651-1714) and Susannah Rush, wasborn in 1686 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His date and place of death areunknown. He married Ester Myles and they were known to have three children.These were sons James, Thomas, and Miles.
Thomas Hart lived after his youth in Warminster Township, Bucks County,Pennsylvania. In 1735 Thomas Hart of Warminster was given a bond signed by JostHite for 1500 acres of land on the Elk Branch, in present day Jefferson County,West Virginia. This is at Dunfield, five miles northwest of Harpers Ferry.Records showing him living there as early as 1742. Records place his sonsThomas and Miles there also, but not James. The last known of the father Thomaswas when he left for the Carolinas in 1754. This departure was understandableas it was at the start of the French and Indian War during which there weremany Indiana raids on inhabitants of the Shenandoah valley.
It is believed that James Hart (c1715-1793) is the son of Thomas Hart, butdocumented direct evidence proving this is lacking. He married Rebecca Finneyabout 1735. The Finney family is related to the Hart family of Warminster bytwo marriages of the Crispin and Dugan families. In 1737 James and Rebecca wereliving at the present site of Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1749 James was a chaincarrier for land surveyed on Holman's Creek; and in 1751, land was surveyed forJames Hart "where he now lives." This land is on Holman's Creek threemiles east of the present town of Forestville, Shenandoah County, Virginia, andsixty miles southwest of Dunfield.
In 1753 a grant was entered for our James Hart on the Eno River in OrangeCounty, North Carolina. Records show him living there in 1755. The NorthCarolina government in the 1760s was very oppressive. Imported goods, propertyand legal papers were exorbitantly taxed. The governor’s deputies seized cattleand horses and grossly unvalued them for unpaid taxes. In 1767 Joseph Maddockand other Quakers applied for grants of land in the frontier territory ofGeorgia. They received them February 7, 1769. Among them were two hundred fiftyacre grants made to James Hart and Thomas Hart, Samuel Hart and Peter Hart,single men, were granted one hundred acres. Joseph Maddock and Jonathan Sellled forty families by oxcart and horse on the three hundred mile trip fromNorth Carolina to Wrightsborough in late 1769. An additional one hundred acreswere granted to Samuel in 1772 and to Peter in 1774. This indicates they weremarried after the original grants. It appears that James and sons Thomas andPeter returned to Orange County, North Carolina during or shortly after theRevolutionary War. James died in 1793, Thomas about 1830, and Peter in 1806,all in Orange County.
Samuel Hart, the son of James Hart and Rebecca Finney, was born in 1746. Hesettled in Wrightsborough when twenty-three years old and lived there foreighteen years until he died in 1787 He married Ester Lowe in 1771 and they hadseven children. In addition to two hundred acres of land, Samuel ownedWrightsborough town lot # 52.
When Samuel died in June 1787 at age forty-one, he left his wife Ester tosupport five children - Isaac, William, Rebecca, Thomas and Finney, ages sixmonths to fourteen years. Two other children, James eleven and Grace two, haddied within one month of each other the prior fall. In August 1788 at theMonthly Meeting of Wrightsborough Friends, Ester "Requested To be joinedin Membership with Us, which hath been Some time Under The Care of WomenFriends, and They having Signified Their Unity Therewith; with which Requestthis Meeting Likewise hath Unity and Receives her Into Membership according Toher desire With her Small Children Namely Isaac, William, Rebecca, Thomas andFenny for Whom She hath Likewise Requested."
In December 1789 Ester Hart married Amos Green. In February 1790 "TheFriends appointed To Settle the Matter between Heirs of Samuel Hart deceasedand Amos Green Report They have Compl’d with Their appointment."
Wrightsborough was located about twenty miles west of Augusta in a virginforest of trees with six to eight foot diameter trunks. "After takingpossession of their lands, the first thing the Quakers had to do was cut thetrees to build a shelter and make a clearing in the woods. This done, they‘girdled’ the rest of the trees on the land intended for farming, and plantedtheir seed around the stumps in holes dug with a hoe. The earliest types ofcrude shelters were sapling ‘lean-tos’, shingled with slabs of bark or whiteoak shakes. These were purely temporary in nature, and the next step was tobuild a log cabin for winter occupancy while they waited for lumber to be cutand seasoned for their permanent homes. Log cabins would be utilized then assheds or stables."
Many of the creeks in Wrightsborough Township are named for the familiesliving on them. Creek names include Hart’s, Carson’s, William’s and Maddock’s.The stream that formed the east and southeast boundaries of the village isMiddle Creek
The early years were rough due to Indian troubles. Many of the grantees didnot settle on their land within the prescribed period. And about one-third ofthe population left for the safety of Augusta or Savannah. However by the latesummer of 1773 the situation had improved. Most returned and about twenty goodhouses had been built in Wrightsborough.
The Quakers were determined to give their children the best possibleeducation, even though no public school system existed. The children weretaught by an elder gathering in the larger homes or in the meetinghouse. Bookswere few, but highly valued.
The Quakers of Wrightsborough did not fare well during the Revolutionary Waras their religious beliefs forbade them military duty. Americans thought themloyalists because they would not fight the British and the British thought theywere rebels because they would not join them. The Americans held Georgia from1776-1777 and the British 1778-1782. The British, marching up from Florida,captured Savannah in December 1778 and Augusta in early 1779. During the winterof 1780-1781, Patriots raided Wrightsborough and killed nearly fifty peoplethought loyal to Britain. Several companies of militia were then appointed forthe defense of Wrightsborough against the "Liberty Boys". Lt. SamuelHart was officer of one company patrolling northward of town. Interesting,while his cousin Col. Joseph Hart was fighting the British in the north, Lt.Samuel Hart was defending for them in the south.
Samuel Hart’s oldest son Isaac was born in 1773 and married Sarah Buffingtonin Warren County, Georgia, in 1796. William, born in 1777, married ElizabethTwiggs Lowe in 1804 and died in 1818. Rebecca, born in 1779, married Eli Dixon.We shall hear more about Thomas and Finney later.
Thomas Hart, the son of Samuel Hart and Ester Lowe, was born in 1782. He marriedMary Gregg, who was born in 1787, daughter of Silas Gregg and Rhoda Armstrong.Thomas was one of the early settlers in Preble County, Ohio.
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793 and this quickly changed thefarming in the south. Planters increased cotton production, which required moreslaves to cultivate, and harvest. Slavery was against Quaker beliefs and theybecame more and more outspoken and unpopular in Georgia. Thus in the early1800s began a Quaker migration from Wrightsborough which was complete by 1806,most going to Ohio and Indiana. One of group of forty families crossed the Ohioat Cincinnati June 12, 1805. We have no records, but perhaps the Harts were inthis group.
Thomas and his brothers Isaac and Finney settled in Preble County, Ohio.Also moving there were their mother Esther Green and half-brothers Jesse andAmos Green. The Preble County 1811 Tax Lists show Thomas Hart owning Section17, Israel Township. Israel Township is in the southwest corner of PrebleCounty. Finney Hart, assignee of his brother Thomas Hart, entered one hundredsixty acres of land in Dixon Township, Preble County, Ohio, February 17, 1812.This was the southeast quarter Section 3. Dixon is on the north border ofIsrael Township.
Preble County is thirty miles north of Cincinnati on the Indiana border.Israel Township is in its southwest corner; Dixon Township is on Israel’snorthern border. The first settler of Dixon Township was Eli Dixon in 1804 andfor whom the township was named when it was formed in 1812. Eli was fromGeorgia and married Rebecca Hart, the sister of Thomas Isaac, and Finney Hart.
Dixon Township has gentle rolling hills in the east and is flat and boggy inthe west. It had many forests of beech wood and oak and still is primeagricultural land. At the time Eli Dixon arrived, there were many Indianspassing through the area but most were not hostile. Wandering bands ofShawnees, Delawares, Miamis and Pottawatomies then regarded Preble County as aneutral hunting ground. The last Indians there were five families of Delawareswho spent the winter of 1813-1814 on Four Mile Creek. They were friendly andwere welcomed as a safe guard against hostile Indians. Their camp was fourmiles west of Finney Hart’s farm in Section 3 of Dixon Township.
Another early settler of Preble County from Georgia was Robert Quinn and hisfamily. He was originally from Maryland, spent a short time in Virginia, wherehis first child Jane was born, then moved to Wrightsborough, Georgia, in 1789.They moved to Ohio in 1805, first living near Germantown, five miles east ofPreble County, then the next year moving ten miles to one and a half milessouth of West Alexanderia. In 1807 they settled on the South East Quarter,Section 31, Twin Township, Preble County. This land is only seven milesnortheast of Finney Hart’s in Dixon Township. Jane Quinn married Finney in1814.
Thomas and Mary had eight children, all born in Ohio. They were Silas (born1810), Samuel (1811), William (1814), twins James and John (1819), Rebecca(1821), Isaac (1824), Joseph (1828) and Mary Ann (1832). Twins John died atthree and James at nineteen.
In February 1837 Thomas Hart and his wife Mary deeded to their sons Samueland William Hart for $2000 the northeast quarter of Section 12, Dixon Township.In November 1839, Samuel sold his interest in this property to William for$2000.
Thomas Hart died in 1841 in Preble County, as did his wife Mary in 1848.When Thomas died, he had no valid will. This presented a huge legal problemthen, just as it would now. The oldest son, Silas, was appointed administratorof the estate. Final settlement was not until 1860, nineteen years after thedeath of Thomas. It is not clear why the proceedings dragged out so long. Thegoods and chattel were appraised in February 1842 at $2498.12. This included a$700 note dated October 2, 1837, on sons Samuel and William due in two years.There were two notes on Jacob Fox for $785, and there was $450 cash on hand inpaper money. In addition there was the farm of one-quarter section (160 acres).In the final outcome the note was forgiven to Samuel and William, Silas waspaid administration fees of $138.84, Isaac and Joseph shared the farm, andRebecca and Mary Ann shared the remainder of $608.73. It appears attorneys andtaxes got most of the estate.
William and Samuel left Preble County and settled in Millbrook Township,Peoria County, Illinois before 1850. The 1850 Illinois Census shows William andSamuel living adjacent to one another in Millbrook. According to thebirthplaces of his children listed in the Census, he came to Illinois after1840 but before 1844. William sold part of his Dixon Township farm (South HalfNortheast Quarter Section 12) in November 1846, and the other part in October1849.
Finney followed his nephews William and Samuel, to Millbrook in 1849. Finneypurchased his first land in Millbrook (West Half of Northwest quarter, Section20, Millbrook) on May 28, 1849.
Silas Hart never left Preble County. In 1832 he married Hannah Eslinger.Silas died in 1869 and Hannah in 1890. They had nine children, seven boys andtwo girls – John E., Thomas J., Isaac N., Rebecca, Alexander, Finney M., MaryEllen and Joseph Rhue. In 1881 all of the boys were still living. Also at thattime, Hannah Hart was living with her son, Alexander. Alexander Hart was theproprietor of the oldest tile factory in Preble County.
The 1850 Ohio Census for Preble County shows Isaac, Joseph and Mary Hartliving together. Nearby were their brother Silas and his family.
In April 1875 Joseph Rhue Hart moved to Brimfield, Peoria County, Illinois.In 1878 he married Bellemina Eva Forney. In about 1884 they moved to Dunlap,and ten years later to Princeville, where Joseph was a masonry contractor andtown sheriff. He died in Princeville in 1922. While not a Millbrook Hart,Joseph lived in adjacent townships and had plenty of contact with his brethrenfrom Preble County.
So ends the one hundred seventy year, six generation journey of Harts fromPhiladelphia to Millbrook.
Dixon Smith - April 2002