Saturday, November 15, 2014


Frank's Family Findings



A Journey into Family History

It has been seven years now since your Family Findings blogger retired from the work force.  He had quite a number of trips in mind at the time, and is grateful for the opportunity to check several of those destinations off of the bucket list, notably three memorable trips to Europe.

Due to a number of circumstances, some of the stateside trips are still undone. This fall, however, Nancy and I did undertake a road trip to visit some places I have wanted to see for years - important landmarks in our family history. Our destinations were in Ohio and West Virginia.
"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything." ~Charles Kuralt~

Arriving in southern Illinois and with Kuralt's wisdom in mind, we forsook that interstate system, and followed a number of highways collectively known as the Ohio River Scenic Byway. Through Illinois and Indiana we followed in reverse the route taken by thousands of early settlers on their way to the vast spaces in the west. It was a beautiful drive, hilly and wooded, occasionally punctuated by old river towns and picturesque farms and farmlands. 

The Ohio River at Elizabethtown, Illinois


National Museum of the United States Air Force

We then swung to the north toward our first destination - the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.  

The main reason for visiting this museum was to see the only Martin B-26g Marauder to survive post-war demolition (and crashes). It was in the Martin Marauder that my father, Burl Thompson, flew (more than 80?) missions during World War II, mostly over occupied France and Belgium. When first introduced, that aircraft was considered unreliable, even dangerous, but Martin Aircraft continued to modify and improve it as the war progressed.

Tech Sgt Burl Thompson (fourth from left) and crew of the TABASCO, Martin B26 Marauder, somewhere in England (possibly Chipping Ongar)

The aircraft on display is painted with the colors of the 387th Bomb Group of the 9th US Air Force. This is the same group in which my father flew. These squadrons of medium bombers were charged with the task of interrupting the flow of supplies to Nazi troops on the front lines - bombing bridges, roads, railroad yards, factories, etc. 

In the Memorial Park adjacent to the museum, we found this monument to the 9th Air Force and those who flew the B-26. The 387th was among the groups memorialized.  

* * *

After an excellent German dinner in Columbus, Ohio, with nephew Bryce Kline and his lovely fiancé Jennifer, we set sail for the mountains of West Virginia - homeland to many of our Thompson / Hamar ancestors, most notably the Pricketts, Jolliffes, Springers, and Morgans.

[If you are trying to keep score, or figure out who's who: My grandmother Thompson was Celia Hamar; and her mother was Jennie Jolliffe. On this branch of the family tree, there are numerous Hamars, Jolliffes, Pricketts, Springers, and Morgans, and numerous incidences of the families inter-marrying. That's what happens with large families on the frontier. The children did not go off to college to find a mate. It seemed there were always a few potential marriage partners at the homestead down the river or the other side of the hill.]

Prickett's Fort - a faithful re-creation


Prickett's Fort

Deep in the West Virginia mountains near the confluence of Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River sits a rustic wooden stockade - known by the earliest settlers as Prickett's Fort. What we see today, within the grounds of Prickett's Fort State Park, is a faithful re-creation of the fort as well as can be determined by writings of the period and from drawings of other similar stockades. Much more than a static display, Prickett's Fort is a living history museum, with year-round, costumed interpreters on hand to tell of the hardships and joys of frontier life.

It has been reported that Jacob Prickett was operating a trading post near the mouth of Prickett's Creek as early as 1759, dealing with the Algonquin, Iroquois, or Appalachaina peoples (includes Delaware, Shawnee, Seneca, Mohawk, etc.).  We know with more certainty that our Prickett ancestors moved from nearby Fayette County, Pennsylvania, to this rugged land on the frontier, a dangerous undertaking, in 1772. Two years later, Captain Zackquill* Morgan (for whom Morgantown, West Virginia, was named) formed a militia unit for protective purposes, and it was decided to build a fort on Jacob Prickett's land. It is believed the fort was completed by July of that year.

[Jacob Prickett is my 7th great uncle. He served as a spy for the Virginia Militia while still quite young, and later fought with George Washington in Bradock's 1758 campaign against the Indians of the Monongahela River region; Zackquill Morgan my 6th great uncle.]

Zackquill Morgan
Unlike forts with a standing military unit, this structure was meant to be a secure place for settlers to gather in times of danger, a practice known as "forting up."  As many as 80 families might crowd into  the small cabins lining the inside walls of the stockade, waiting for the danger to subside, be that days or weeks - an unpleasant ordeal, but tolerable compared to the alternative.

Other structures within the walls include such necessities as a meeting room, store rooms, and a gun smith.

Also on the grounds are a blacksmith shop, a visitor's center and museum, and Job Prickett's house shown here, built in 1859. Job was a grandson of Captain Jacob Prickett.

Prickett's Fort Cemetery:

The early settlers, mostly family members, lay at rest in this serene setting within walking distance of the visitor's center.

One prominent marker indicates the burial site (shown below) of the previously mentioned Col. Zackquill Morgan. Historians believe that Zackquill and his brother were the second settlers in what is now Monongalia County, in about 1755 or 1756. He served in the Virginia forces in the French and Indian War, later becoming a heroic leader in the Revolutionary War. He commanded about six hundred men of the Virginia Minute Men and was with General Horatio Gates at the Battle of Saratoga, New York (October 1777). [The family connection - Colonel Morgan was married to Drusilla Springer, daughter of  Dennis Springer, Sr. and Ann Prickett.]

In many places, modern tombstones have been added where the original grave markers have disappeared or been rendered unreadable. The stone shown below commemorates Charity Taylor Prickett, her husband Josiah, and Josiah's brother Isaiah who was killed Indians as he was cutting wood for the stockade. The inscription notes that Charity was the first white woman to cross the Allegheny Mountains; however, many local historians believe she was instead the first European female born west of the Alleghenies. My research shows that Charity married my 4th great-grandfather William Jolliffe after the death of Josiah. Sometimes the lines on a pedigree chart can make a few twists and turns!

The original marker below survives only in pieces at the burial site of Jacob Prickett II.  The Daughters of the American Revolution have added a commemorative plaque which will mark the spot for many years to come.

Should you find yourself traveling in the vicinity of Morgantown or Fairmont, West Virginia, I urge you to take the time to visit Prickett's Fort State Park, and to pay the admission fee to visit the fort itself.  It's an excellent place to bring history to life, for children and adults alike. It's located a couple of miles from Interstate 79, and the short drive to the site winds along Prickett's Creek (shown below).


* Zackquill is found spelled in numerous ways in historical records. The spelling I have chosen is infrequently used, but is how his name appears in baptismal records. 

* * *

Adams County, Ohio

Adams County is located in the southern most part of the state along the Ohio River, a short distance from Limestone, Kentucky (now known as Maysville) - a major river town and staging port during the era of westward expansion. Much of Adams County's rolling woodlands has been cleared for farming, and since the 1970s a growing number of Amish have purchased land in the county. 

Adams County has been home to a large number of our ancestors. Some stayed a short while before moving on to the west, but many more stayed for generations. There are numerous descendants of those early settlers still living in the area. When I think of Adams County, the Treber and Holmes names immediately come to mind, but research has revealed others - Chapman, Crawford, Springer, Fertig from my maternal tree, Jolliffe from my paternal tree, Stains, Minard, and Pope from wife Nancy's tree, and Rowells from our daughters' in-laws. That's for starters. 

The Old Treber Inn


Many years ago, before my interest in family history developed, I inherited this 1900-1910 era post card of the Old Treber Inn at West Union, Ohio. I heard stories of the inn from the aunts and uncles who were the keepers of family lore, and decided I must see that house for myself some day. Six decades later....

Old Treber Inn, October, 2014

In 1795,  my 4th great-grandfather John Treber uprooted his family from their home near the mouth of Peters Creek in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Following the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers,  surviving encounters with hostile native tribes along the way, they found their way to Adams County, Ohio. The following year, he homesteaded on a piece of land along Zane's Trace, the principal overland trail from Wheeling (then Virginia, now West Virginia) to Limestone (now Maysville), Kentucky. By 1797 he had finished construction of the home shown here.

John and Mary's new home become an inn. Known as Traveler's Rest at the time, it was a popular stopping point for travelers - some of them prominent  historical figures - en route to or from the nation's capital. Son Jacob and his wife Jane Thoroman ("Mother Treber") took over the inn and the farm. Several stories have been passed along to us, including that featured in the previous Family Findings #2 - Jacob Treber and the New Madrid Earthquake.  Look for more stories about the Trebers in the future.

The Treber Inn remained in the Treber and related Sproull families until the 1990s when it was willed to the Siningers, long-time West Adams people who had a close connection to the "Doctors Sproull" - two spinster sisters, one an M.D., the other a Ph.D., topics of a future story, I think. The house today is unoccupied, and we did not get an opportunity to view the interior. 

The exterior of the Treber Inn appears to be in fair condition at this time, but I confess that I am truly concerned about the future of this historic structure. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but that status could be jeopardized if the site is not cared for and allowed to fall into a serious state of disrepair. Let's hope that doesn't happen.  

The Treber Cemetery

This family cemetery, located a couple of hundred yards from the inn, is but one of four cemeteries in the immediate area in which we can visit the burial sites of our ancestors. Because of its location and historical interest, it is the only one we chose to visit. Being there was special.

Modern stone identifies burial spot of John Treber, builder of Treber Inn

Jacob Treber, son of John, fought in War of 1812
Jane Thoroman "Mother Treber," famous coffee and biscuits

The John Holmes House 

Driving into the town of West Union, I pointed out a house to Nancy that I was certain to be the home of John and Elizabeth (Treber) Holmes, my 2nd great-grandparents. That was verified during a visit to the genealogical society library and museum, so we made it a point to stop there on our way out of town in order to take some photos.

In 1850 John and Elizabeth Holmes purchased a steam-powered sawmill adjacent to the Old Chillicothe Pike, now Highway 41. In 1852 they completed the construction of this home about fifty yards or so from the mill.  This is how the home looks today. 

We parked our car across the highway, then noted there was someone working in the front yard. I approached her and asked her if she might be familiar with the history of this house. She smiled at that and answered that she was. Upon learning that I was a Holmes descendant, she was delighted, saying they had never met a Holmes family member in the 42 years they had lived in the home, and often wondered what became of the family.  We were treated to a brief tour of the home and an interesting time of conversation. We were shown a small tintype photo which they had found tucked away in the basement. They were certain it was John Holmes, as was I. Below is my photograph of the photograph.

The Holmes families were staunch abolitionists, and undertook great risks for that cause. From 1852 to 1863, this home was used to hide runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. There was at one time a hidden trap door from the kitchen into the cellar where the runaways would hide until it was safe to proceed to the next stop on the journey to freedom. From the kitchen, you can still see a house on the next hill which had belonged to Black Joe Logan, another well-known station on the Underground Railroad.  It is believed the Holmes house was designed in such a way that the two stations could signal each other.  In 1868, John and Elizabeth moved west, to Aledo in Mercer County, Illinois. Below is another picture of John Holmes. I believe this was photocopied from a book on the history of Aledo County, Illinois.

Nancy and I have the contact information for the current owners, a most engaging couple with an interest in history. If you visit West Union, we would be glad to get you in touch with them. They mentioned to us that they might even be able to help us get in to see the Old Treber Inn (just up the pike a few miles). Too bad we were getting ready to leave.

* * *

Visiting Adams County - Recommendations

Lodging: Even though it was 20 miles from West Union, we chose the John T Wilson Homestead B&B at Tranquility (website link below). Built in the 1840s by the county's richest and most influential early citizen, this house also served as a station on the Underground Railroad. After seeing the "before" photos, we were amazed at the restoration work done on this house.

Pre-historic** Site: Serpent Mound State Park - The largest serpent effigy in the world, Serpent Mound is a "1,348-foot (411 m)-long, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County, Ohio." Researchers have established a date of about 1070 AD for its creation by indigenous peoples. 

**Pre-historic: I must confess that I am completely baffled by that term. Think about it. 

Want to learn more? Here are some links to


Ohio River Scenic Byway (Illinois):  
Ohio River Scenic Byway (Indiana):
Ohio River Scenic Byway (Ohio): OhioByways/Pages/OhioRiverScenic
National Museum of the US Air Force:
Prickett's Fort:
Adams County, Ohio Visitor Info:  
Zane's Trace (Wikipedia article):
John T Wilson Homestead:
Serpent Mound:
Family Tree* on

*Privacy notice - Living persons on this family tree are NOT viewable by the general public; only those who have received an invitation by me, and identified as eligible, can view living persons

Future stories --

In upcoming posts we will answer such questions as...
  • How are the Glidewells related to George Washington? (Yes, that George Washington)
  • Which Hackney ancestor was personal friends with Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill, and had her own wild west show?
  •  Did we have any relatives at the first Thanksgiving at the Towne of Plymouth?  And, were any of our kin on the Mayflower?
  • Which Thompson ancestor stood at the side of  England's Charles I as he was executed by beheading?
  • Is it Treber or Traber? And why the two spellings of the ancestral name?
  • What does DNA testing say about our ethnicity? (mine, specifically)