Genealogy has become a hobby for me over the last 10 years. For me, it's like a puzzle, I love fitting the pieces together. But over the years, I've researched a lot that does not pertain to our family lines. Some for extended family, some for close friends, and some because I was trying to rule out lines to figure out where our line went exactly. I do not want these notes on my Heather's Genealogy Notes blog - because they are not our lines. But I do like to share all of my research, in case it benefits others. That is what this blog is for - research I have done that does not apply to our own family lines, but may be helpful for someone else.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Genealogy and history of the Hepburn family of the Susquehanna Valley 
with reference to other families of the same 
by John F. Meginness.


Samuel Hepburn, father of Jaines. William, Samuel and John, who settled on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, was born near Glasgow, Scotland, sometime in the year 1698. His remote ancestor was Patrick Hepburn, third Lord Hailes and first Earl of Bothwell. His immediate ancestor was Rev. John Hepburn, of Keith. He had several sons, it will be remembered, one of whom was killed under peculiar and painful circumstances. One of his sons
was named James, known in history as the "Scotch patriot," and he became the father of Samuel. The latter named his eldest son James, and thus we have the line direct from the house of Keith.

For the truth of this statement we have living testimony. Mrs. Virgilia B. Brooke, of 1814 Tioga Street, Philadelphia, says: "My mother's sister, Juliana Grant, of Sunbury, Pa., married John Hepburn, of Northumberland. Many years ago, when I was reading the lives of the Pretenders to my father, the late Col, Kenderton Smith, of Philadelphia, he told me that James and John Hepburn, of Northumberland,
were lineal descendants of James Hepburn of Keith, the Scotch patriot; that my uncle, John Hepburn, had stated this to him." No better testimony to establish the line of descent seems necessary.

The birthplace of Samuel Hepburn, near Glasgow, was probably Bothwell Castle. Of his parentage, and how many there were in the family, and what his early advantages were, are unknown ; but there is little doubt that the family was of high standing, that he received a good education, and moved in the best circles of Scottish society. What trade or occupation he followed is unknown, but it is believed that he was brought up to the mercantile business.

About 1746 he married Miss Janet , a Scottish lady, but nothing is known of her parentage and family.
Soon after their marriage the young couple were forced to leave Scotland on account of religious persecution, having been brought up in the faith of the Covenanters, and they settled in Donegal, Ireland. At that time there was much feeling existing between the Catholics and Presby-
terians, and it resulted in many of the latter abandoning their native land to seek homes in a country where they could enjoy their religious belief with impunity. It was this religious trouble which brought about the Presbyterian emigration to America, and the immigrants came to be known as Scotch Irish.


How long Samuel Hepburn and family were residents of Donegal we have no means of determining, but it must have been for many years, for all of his children were born there. When favorable reports reached him of the superior advantages to settlers in this country, they soon began to make an impression on his mind, and he yearned to know something more definite regarding them. His sons, James and William, therefore, determined to come to America and learn for; themselves the true condition of affairs and report to their father., -Early in 1773 they sailed from Londonderry and in due time, landed at Philadelphia. At that time James was twenty-six and William eighteen years of age.
Soon after landing the>' started for the interior of Pennsylvania, being attracted by the reports which reached them of the beauty and fertility of what was known as the " New Purchase" — or more particularly the lands lying in the valley of the West Branch of the Susquehanna.

James, after familiarizing himself with the new country, and being satisfied of its future advantages, made his way back to Philadelphia, where he remained for fully ten years; but it is believed that in the meantime he made occasional return visits to the valley to look after the purchase of lands — or rather to locate tracts on which to place warrants. William, however, remained, and immediately became identified with the militia for the protection of the frontier against the inroads of the savages.

Having received encouraging reports from his sons in this country, Samuel Hepburn decided to emigrate also. He brought his younger sons, Samuel, Jr., and John, with him, and they undoubtedly all remained in and about Philadelphia, for we do not hear of them being on the Susquehanna until several years afterwards. Samuel was so old when he came to America that it seems doubtful if he engaged in any business during his life in this country. That he was a man of some means, and assisted his sons in their business operations, is probable.


When he became settled he determined to bring his wife and daughter to this country. The tradition, as related to the writer by a descendant (now deceased), is that he despatched his son John to Ireland for the purpose of settling up their affairs and then accompany them to America. His mission accomplished, they sailed from Londonderry on the ship Faithful Steward. The voyage proved uneventful until the coast of New Jersey was reached, when a storm arose and the vessel was driven on the sands and wrecked. An attempt was made to land a boat load of passengers, but it was swamped by the breakers, and Mrs. Hepburn and her daughter were drowned. Tradition says, further-
more, that the ladies might have been saved but for the additional weight of gold which they had belted around their persons.

There is a conflict of opinion, however, as to the time and place this calamity occurred. By some it is asserted that the wreck occurred off New Foundland; others maintain that it was on Absecom Beach, New Jersey, and about the year 1775. An officer of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was recently informed from Atlantic City that the vessel was wrecked at Absecom in 1765. One boat load of passengers, in trying to get ashore, was swamped. They had with them a quantity of stamp act paper which the officers were anxious to get ashore, and it overloaded the boat. Much of this paper was afterwards picked up on the beach. From the wreck two sets of English china ware were saved, one of which is now at Atlantic City.

The time given (1765) is probably an error. Doubtless 1775 was the year meant, as it is so easy to make errors in dates. This would harmonize with other events — especially with the arrival of James and William Hepburn, which was in 1772 or 1773.

There is another tradition, preserved by the Dougal. family of Milton, Pa., which is that the vessel was lost off New Foundland. The father of the celebrated Dr. James Dougal was aboard the ship and was among the few saved. He reached land first, and succeeded in rescuing a young man who was in an exhausted condition. Edward Cooke and family-^brother of Col. William Cooke, of Revolutionary fame — were among the lost. Dougal and Hepburn, it is claimed, were the first to arrive and impart the sad views to relatives and friends. This report was confirmed by his grandson, Jacob Cooke, of Muncy, Pa., (b. 1797), who died in 1887, and the account has been preserved by his daughter. Mrs. M. J. Levan, in her scrap-book, who distinctly remembers hearing it related by her father when a child. Unfortunately the year of this occurrence has not been preserved.

Both traditions are given for the benefit of all concerned, without any special attempt to reconcile them. It is possible that there were two vessels lost — the " Royal Stuart " and the "Faithful Steward," and both traditions may be correct. The Dougal tradition is that the vessel was named the Royal* Stuart. In that event the other vessel might have been wrecked earlier, as reported from Atlantic City.

However it may have been, the blow was a severe one, and cast a cloud of sorrow over the minds of the surviving relatives. At this time Samuel Hepburn must have been well advanced in years. No records of the ages of the lost have been preserved ; neither is the name of the daughter remembered.

*See sketch of Dr. James Dougal in Meginness' Biographical Annals,
pp. 106-108, which was prepared by one of his descendants.


Soon after this great calamity fell upon Samuel Hepburn, he must have taken up his residence with his son James at Northumberland, and he did not long survive the crushing blow. The inscription on his marble headstone, in the cemetery at Northumberland, reads as follows:

In Memory of
Samuel Hepburn,
Who Departed this Life
January nth, 1795,
Aged 97 Years.

Almost one hundred years! By his side lie the remains of his .sons, James and Samuel, and two grandsons. And within a few yards of their graves repose the ashes of the celebrated Dr. Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen gas, who died February 6, 1801. There is something sublimely
beautiful, as well as impressive, in the fact that almost side by side lie the mortal remains of the sturdy representative of an ancient Scottish house and the great English scientist, who electrified the world by his discovery; the frowning walls of Blue Hill rise in rugged grandeur but a short distance away, whilst the crystal waters of two rivers wash its eastern and southern base, and the receding hills, like ocean
billows, roll away, adding beauty to the glorious natural scene which surrounds the place of their burial.
Samuel Hepburn and his wife Janet had issue:

  James, b. 1747; m. Mary Hopewell; d. January 4, 1817.

  daughter, lost by shipwreck.

  William, b. 1753; m. first, Crecy Covenhoven; second, Elizabeth Huston; d. June 25, 1 821. 

Samuel, h. 1755; m. Edith Miller; d. December 24, 1801.

  John, b. 1757; m. Mary Elliott; date and placeof death unknown.

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