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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
History of the Moorhead Family


Beginning the latter part of the sixteenth century there dwelt on one of the moors of Scotland a clan of people who, at a later date, moved from the mountain range to that peninsula in Scotland marked on the map "South End." They were known as "The family that came from the head of the moor." With this brief introduction we give a history of the Moorhead family.

We do not know certainly the first name of the father of this family, but from frequent mention of "Donald" in some of the old papers connected with the family we believe that to be the first name of the father, and that his wife's name before marriage was Esther Parkson. It seems that they had but the one child, whose name was William. Early in life he was employed by one of the landowners. In the same family was a young lady whom they had adopted in child hood, giving her the advantages of education and culture. In after years, William married this young lady and leased a tract of land, on which they lived happily. Her mistress was still kind to her, giving her many things to furnish her new home, the most valuable gift being a well-selected library. The constant reading of these books gave them enlarged ideas and also a desire for greater liberty than they then enjoyed. To them was born a son, whom they named Alexander. Some years after this there came to them a strong desire to go to the new world -- America. This desire was increased by the favorable reports of the new land of liberty, where all were on equal footing -- free from class or caste. After coming to this conclusion, they commenced saving as much as possible of their small earnings in order that they might have means sufficient to pay their passage across the seas. After years of careful saving, they secured the amount and began preparations for crossing the waters, when a fever of some malignant type made its appearance in their parish. The mother early became one of its victims and the husband laid his wife in the "kirkyard." After this, he thought he could not leave the grave of his wife, saying he "did na think God intended them to leave the land of their birth." But, in less than one year, the father was stricken with the same disease and his body was laid beside that of his wife.

After the death of the mother and father, the son, Alexander, went across to Ireland, where he was married to a young Irish girl, named Jennie Clyde. To them was born a son, whom they also named Alexander. They had determined to come to America, but, when the son was about fifteen years of age, the father died. The widow, having been interested in the stories that her husband had given to her in his lifetime of the advantages that they would have if they would emigrate to America, believed it to be her duty to carry out the wish of her deceased husband. With this thought, she sold her property, and, when her son was seventeen years old, they sailed for this country in the year 1764. The voyage was so long and dangerous that the mother sometimes thought that indications of Providence said to her that it was not God's will that the Moorhead family should land in America, and when she would recall that her husband, as well as his parents, had desired to come to this land and had been prevented by death she prayed earnestly to God for their safe journey. During the storms she would feel that God was angry with her for leaving the land of her birth and would reproach herself saying, "If it is God's will that my only son is to be taken from me, I wish I had remained at home and buried him under Ireland's green soil." But she said God revealed himself to her one night when they were tempest tossed by whispering to her so tenderly, "Peace; be still. Know that I am God. I hold the waves of the sea in the hollow of my hand." She said, "From that hour, I had no fear. In fact, I was happy during the remainder of our voyage. When in company with my son, we would talk and plan about what we would do when we came to land." After twenty-six weeks of sailing, they landed at Phila delphia. Having rested here for some days they went to Waynesboro, Franklin county. The mother and son lived together there. 

On the same vessel on which they sailed was a family named Morrow and they had a daughter whose name was Mary. This family also located in Franklin county. Then, as now, Cupid some times placed his dart in the young and tender heart and the friendship which was formed between the young people during their voyage developed into a pure and constant love, and they were married in 1769. To them were born, in Franklin county, three children -- James, Margaret and Esther.

In the year 1780, Alexander Moorhead, his wife and three children and his mother, Jennie Moorhead, came to Indiana county, purchasing a tract of land lying between Yellow and Twolick creeks, near Homer City.

Indiana county, at that time, was one vast forest. The only highways were paths, called trails, through the dense forest, and upon these no vehicle could be moved. Their traveling was done on horses, the path being so narrow they were conducted single file through the woods, the horse in front wearing a bell and the others following its sound. When the Moorhead family crossed the mountains, three other families -- McKisson, McGee and Pilson -- accompanied them. The men all carried their trusty rifles, hunters' knives and tomahawks. The trip was made under many difficulties. All household goods were packed on horses. Strong, rude baskets were constructed of splits of wood, and two were connected by withes and placed on the packsaddles, one basket on each side of the horse. In these were placed the bedding and the children too small to walk. James Moorhead often related to the writer incidents of their coming to this country. He occupied one of the baskets and his sister, Margaret, the other, while their mother walked close beside, watching that none of the overhanging branches would pull the little ones from their seats. She carried Esther in her arms. They drove with them cattle, sheep and hogs, while turkeys, chickens, guineas, ducks and geese were carried in basket coops on the pack horses. The men would be divided into parties, some going in advance to watch for Indians, bears, panthers or wildcats, while others would be in the center and rear to guard and protect and see that none of the livestock would wander away. After a few days' journey, the horses and cattle became accustomed to this mode of travel and gave but little trouble. The men who pre ceded the line of march would select some suit able place to camp over night, where there was good water and the camp could be easily defended. The distance traveled each day was necessarily very short. It was somewhat like the children of Israel traveling through the wilderness, but their table was well supplied with game from the forest and fish from the streams, and they had, withal, a pleasant time around their campfire at night. At last, the party reached their respective places in this county.The Moorhead family immediately began active work in clearing their farm and erecting buildings. It was hard work cutting down the large forest trees and clearing the ground so that it could be cultivated.

On account of rumors of the depredations of Indians and their appearance in the neighborhood, both the Moorheads and the Thomp sons, who had, one year before, located some six miles father north on what is now known as the Isaac Earhart farm, were compelled to return to Franklin county. They dug large pits in the ground in which to bury their household valuables and farming implements. After they were securely covered with earth, large piles of logs were burned over them so the Indians could not find them. Upon their return, about one year later, the Thompson family found their cabin burned to the ground. That year they built a fort on the Fergus Moorhead farm, to which they were often compelled to flee with their cattle for protection from the rude savages. After two years the Indians gave no further trouble, and the Moorheads proceeded diligently to clear out and cultivate their farm. Two other children, Prudence and Alexander, were born. Many privations were endured. It was hard and constant labor, largely devoid of social enjoyment, but still they had their romances, one of which we give:

A Mr. Meek, from the state of Ohio, was visiting his cousin, Meek Kelly, who lived in the same neighborhood, and fell in love with the daughter, Prudence. The father opposed the match but love generally has its own way. One afternoon, Mr. Meek, accompanied by Meek Kelly and a lady as bridesmaid, and an extra horse, rode to the forest some distance from the Moorhead home. This was all previously arranged with Prudence. While upstairs making her preparations for leaving, Prudence took her mother into her confidence and told her all about it. She then went downstairs, and, throwing her arms about her father's neck, said, "Goodbye, father," and hastened to the door, where her lover was waiting. The mother quickly followed downstairs, and said to the father, "Prudence is gone." "Where!" "With Meek." Catching up his rifle he ran out and fired, it is said, in the opposite direction from which they were fleeing. Prudence had mounted behind her lover, who was riding a spirited horse, and they soon came to where the party was awaiting them. Then she was placed upon the horse provided for her, and all started on a long ride to a minister's house, where they were married. They went to Ohio, locating at Cincinnati.

In the early days, the neighbors were quite a distance apart -- in many cases from four to six miles. The Moorheads and Thompsons were inti mate neighbors, but the distance between the two farms was about eight miles. You could not see from one farm to another, as now, on account of distance and dense forests. But while they were deprived of the social enjoyments we now have, their "scutchings," "woolpickings," "log- rollings," "grubbings" and "quiltings" they en joyed, the more on account of their not occurring so frequently. They had one gathering in which gentlemen only participated, and this was the "kicking," which requires an explanation. At that period their clothing and bedding were of their own pro duction. They grew their own flax, which was prepared for the scutching, hackled, spun and woven into linen. For their woolens they had their own flocks of sheep, from which they obtained the wool, which was carded and woven into cloth for ladies', and gentlemen's apparel. They made their own blanketing. The woolen goods were put through a "fulling" process in this manner: When the woolen web was taken from the loom, it was laid on the floor, warm water was poured upon it and plenty of soft soap. The gentlemen, divested of their shoes and stockings, and with their pants rolled up to the knees, were seated around the cloth on chairs. A rope was given them, which was tied together at both ends. This was caught with both hands by each person. Then they kicked with both feet the cloth, which was saturated with soap and water until it would foam like water falling over a cataract. It was great sport. Some persons, by preconcerted arrangement, would draw vigorously on the rope and the unsuspecting one would fall from his chair to the center of the circle, where he was compelled to be active, if he would escape being kicked and given a dose of soapsuds. 

Their food, too, differed from ours. They knew nothing of canned fruit nor prepared foods. But their tables were liberally supplied with vegetables and meats of their own raising. If their meat supply would become exhausted, with their trusty rifle they would supply their table with flesh that would be a rarity to us. Grandmother Moorhead related to the writer an instance that occurred in her girlhood days. One evening, she observed a flock of wild turkeys in the buckwheat field, which lay by a huge forest. She informed her father of their presence. He told her he would go out early in the morning, before daylight, for they would likely roost on some tall trees, and in the morning get their breakfast in the buckwheat field. While it was yet dark, he took his rifle and went quietly to the place described by his daughter, and, just before the sun made its appearance, he heard the turkeys flapping their wings, preparing to come to the ground. He discovered several upon the branches of a large hickory tree. He fired, but seemed to miss his mark. After waiting a few minutes, he heard a fluttering of wings, and, going closer to the tree, discovered a turkey hanging in the branches, head downward. He supposed it was wounded and would soon fall to the ground but it did not. He then climbed the tree, and found that the ball from the rifle had split a small twig of the hickory and caught the turkey's feet, holding it fast. He climbed on a stronger limb underneath the bird, and, by using his hunter's knife, secured his game. When his daughter heard the report of the gun, she looked out toward the hill and saw a large turkey flying directly for the house. As soon as it reached the yard it dropped dead. She picked it up and secreted it, expecting to tease her father, thinking he had not secured a turkey. In a few minutes, the father arrived, and, dropping a large turkey on the porch, said, "Nancy, that will make a nice dinner." Imagine his surprise when his daughter brought in the one she had gotten, saying, "See, father, I have one, too," The bullet that killed the one the daughter secured imprisoned the bird the father caught.

She also related to me an experience her mother had in the early days of killing a wolf. Upon one occasion a hungry wolf attacked their flock of sheep that were grazing near their home, and chased one into the yard. She was attracted by its bleating and hastened to its rescue. Picking up an ax that was standing by the door, with one stroke she split open the skull of the wolf.

About the year 1838, Alexander Moorhead sold his real estate, with the exception of 100 acres which had been given to James in 1799, and moved to Clarion county, near a place now known as Rimersburg, where he invested in timber and iron ore lands. The investment was premature but if it had remained in his possession until later years would have become valuable. He and his wife lived to an old age and at last were called to their home and were buried in that county.