Close to Home

It is week four in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge. This week’s prompt is titled Close to Home.

It seems fortuitous that the ancestor about whom I was already writing today, William Monroe Lewis, fits perfectly into this category: He rarely strayed from his Centre County, Pennsylvania home, except when he fought in the Mexican-American War and when he visited his adult children.


On this day, 25 January 1909, William Monroe Lewis (my spouse’s 3rd great-grandfather) passed away.

Born on 31 December 1814, in Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania, William Monroe Lewis was the son of George Lewis and Polly Tumbleson.

His entire life was lived in the village of his birth, although when he first saw the light of day, there was no village there. Bald Eagle Valley was then a wilderness and the pioneers were at work cutting down the forests of immense pine and oak trees for the purpose of clearing off their little farms….

[William Monroe Lewis] saw the opening up of Bald Eagle Valley [and] the building of the old charcoal furnaces at various points through the valley and, after years of prosperous iron, saw them close and go to decay and ruin. He saw the building of the Bald Eagle Valley Railroad, the opening of the coal fields in [Centre] and Clearfield Counties, the lumbering interests of the valley from its height until practically the last big tree was cut and marketed. In fact, he lived through almost five generations and saw all the wonderful changes that such a lapse of time necessarily brought about.

And it was the labor of his own brawny arms that helped in some of those changes. As a boy, he assisted his father in cutting down timber and clearing the land for a home. When the furnaces were built in that section and the burning of charcoal became a business of some magnitude, he went to chopping wood for charcoal purposes and in the scores of years that he wielded his ax, he was known far and wide as the most expert chopper of the state. In fact, long after charcoal burning became a thing of the past, he chopped for his livelihood….¹

The first time that William Monroe Lewis appears in official records is on 14 September 1841, when he married Susan Neal in Port Matilda, Centre County, Pennsylvania.

Less than a year later, son Marshall Humphrey Lewis was born on 13 February 1842.

Daughter Rebecca J. Lewis came along about two years later circa 1844.

Son Edward Lewis then arrived on 12 July 1845.

Soon after Edward’s birth, tensions with Mexico arose over the annexation of Texas by the United States and the ensuing dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (U.S. claim). These tensions culminated in April 1846, when war was declared. Almost immediately, William Monroe Lewis volunteered to fight, serving for most of that two-year campaign. in 1845 and from a dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (U.S. claim). On September 14, 1847, Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, fell to American forces, ending the military phase of the conflict. Although the war did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in March 1848, most troops had been sent home in late 1847, including William Monroe Lewis.

On 6 August 1848, about nine months after his return, William and his wife Susan welcomed daughter Hannah Larue Lewis (my spouse’s 2nd great-grandmother) to their Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania home.

On 12 October 1850, the Lewis family was enumerated in Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Residing in the household were father William Lewis, age 30, who worked as a collier; Susan, age 34; Marshall, age 8; Edward, age 5; and Hannah, age 2. Daughter Rebecca, who would have been about six years old, is not listed. Chances are, with child mortality being so high in the mid-1800s, that Rebecca had died within those few years between her birth and the census.

A year after the census, daughter Medora Lewis was born on 1 July 1851, in Port Matilda, Centre County, Pennsylvania.

Three years later, son John Lewis arrived in the family’s Port Matilda home on 19 February 1854.

Sadly, this childbirth took a toll on wife Susan (Neal) Lewis, She died a few weeks later on 10 March 1854, in Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania from complications of childbirth.

Although William Monroe Lewis was grief-stricken over the loss of his wife, he was left with five young children to raise alone. He needed a helpmate.

Two years after the death of his first wife, William Monroe Lewis married Anna Elizabeth Kelly on 29 January 1856, at the Port Matilda Presbyterian Church.

About a year and a half later, on 25 August 1857, their daughter Mary Ann Lewis was born.

Then, tragedy struck again. On 19 March 1858, William Lewis’ thirteen-year-old son Edward died. The entire Lewis family mourned his loss.

Around this time, William and Anna Lewis joined the newly founded Bald Eagle Presbyterian Church of Port Matilda, also known as the Port Matilda Presbyterian Church.

On 8 July 1860, son William H. Lewis was welcomed to the family.

On 16 August 1860, the Lewis family was enumerated in Houston Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Residing in the household were William, a laborer, age 31; Anna E., age 24; Hannah, age 12; Mary A., age 3; William, age six months; and Susan Kelly (probably Anna’s younger sister), age 18. Their personal property was valued at $400.

Daughter Minnie Lewis was born three years later on 16 July 1863.

On 5 July 1864, daughter Hannah Larue Lewis married James Bernard Williams in Port Matilda, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Hannah was 15 years old; James was 23 years old.

Six years passed. On 1 July 1870, the Lewis family was noted in the federal census. Living in their Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania home were William, age 46; Anna, age 32; Mary A., age 12; William, age 10; and Minnie, age 7. William was working in a sawmill. Their real estate was worth $500, and their personal property was valued at $150.

Son Buddy Lewis came along a year later on 16 August 1871. Unfortunately, little Buddy was not a healthy child and died less than two years later on 29 April 1873.

William Lewis’ final child Orlando Lewis was welcomed to the family on 30 June 1874.

Six years passed. On 11 June 1880, the Lewis family was enumerated in Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Residing in the household were William, age 56; Anna, age 42; William, age 20; Minnie, age 17; and Orlando, age 6. Both William Sr. and William were working as laborers.

Time moved forward, and children grew up and moved out. On 6 June 1900, only William and Anna Lewis were residing in their Worth Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania home. William, age 85, was working as an engineering stationary to support himself and 63-year-old Anna.

[Even] when he was ninety-two years of age, he shouldered his ax and after walking a mile to the woods, cut paper wood from morning until night. And even that age, his day’s work was that of a vigorous man. In fact, up until he took sick less than three weeks ago, he was always doing something, as he could not be contented in idleness.¹

In December 1908, William Monroe Lewis and his wife Anna traveled to their son William’s home in Tyrone, Blair County, Pennsylvania to celebrate the elder William’s 94th birthday on 31 December.

The chiseler made a mistake on William’s headstone. He died in 1909, not 1907.

In good spirits and good health, the elder couple then traveled the next week to one of their granddaughters’ homes in Bald Eagle Township, just east of Tyrone. While there, William Monroe Lewis contracted a bad cold which quickly settled in his lungs. He was taken back to the home of his son William. Although much was done to save his life, because of his advanced age, the illness could not be eradicated.

At twenty minutes before midnight on 25 January 1909, William Monroe Lewis died from “la grippe” (a.k.a. influenza) at the age of 94 years and 25 days. His body was transported back to his hometown, where he was laid to rest in the Port Matilda Presbyterian Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, six of his children (Marshall, Hannah, Medora, William, Minnie, and Orlando), 34 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

William M. Lewis, probably the oldest native and resident of Centre County…has passed from time into eternity. [He] was perhaps the most remarkable men in some ways ever known in this section of the state [and] possessed a very clear mind and retentive memory even up until the last…[He] always lived an unblemished Christian life [and] was esteemed and revered by every man, woman and child who knew him.¹


¹ Democratic Watchman, Bellefonte, PA, 29 January 1909

Categories: Everyday People, On This Day, Williams-Stott Line | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Close to Home

  1. Pingback: Crunching the Numbers, 2020 | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

  2. Pingback: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Service | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

  3. Pingback: *Press it* 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Close to Home #119 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  4. I’ve seen some crazy wrong ones!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. No, it doesn’t, does it? Don’t you LOVE how people fudge their ages in the old records? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. William’s age in the census never seems to match up with his birth year, does it? That was quite a long life.

    Liked by 2 people

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