John Truby Shirley


JOHN TRUBY SHIRLEY, of Freeport, Armstrong county, a resident of that borough since 1894, is engaged in business in Pittsburgh as a broker, being a member of the Consolidated Stock Exchange. Mr. Shirley is of old Pennsylvania stock. His maternal grandfather, Christofer Iman, lived at Elders Ridge, Indiana county, where he was engaged at farming. He was one of the progressive men of his time, especially interested in the question of public education.

John R. Shirley, father of John T. Shirley, conducted the "Shirley House" at Freeport for some time. He married Rachel Iman.

John T. Shirley was born in Armstrong county, Pa., near Bradys Bend, and the family removing later to Butler he received his education at that place. When about fourteen years old he entered the Union army for service in the Civil war, joining company H, 78th Pennsylvania Regiment, under Captain Jack of Butler and Colonel Sirwell of Kittanning. He served three years and two months, at the end of that period going home to Butler, where he clerked in a store for some time. Later he was at Freeport, following the hotel business with his father in the conduct of the "Shirley House" until Oct. 19, 1869, when he married and moved to Parker, this county. He had a hardware store at that place, and was engaged in the oil business during the great excitement, opening a hardware store at Karns City, Butler county. In 1878 he went to Bradford, Pa., for two years, during which time he was engaged as an oil producer. Thence he went to Warren, Pa., where he was engaged in the same line for fifteen years, in 1894 coming to Freeport, as previously stated. He has since followed the brokerage business, having headquarters at Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 19, 1869, Mr. Shirley married Martha A. Moorhead, and they have had four children, all of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Shirley was born at Freeport, in the house where she now resides, daughter of William Moorhead, and granddaughter of David Moorhead.

David Moorhead, her grandfather, came of a North of Ireland family which has had a number of prominent representatives in this section of Pennsylvania. William Moorhead, her father, was a cousin of Gen. James K. Moorhead, member of Congress, and one of the foremost citizens of Pennsylvania in his day. David Moorhead, the grandfather, married Martha Stanley, of Chambersburg, Franklin Co., Pa., who was born at that place May 4, 1766, of English parentage. The Stanleys were descendants of the Earls of Derby. Four Stanley brothers were members of the celebrated Queen�s horse guard, in England, composed entirely of tall men. One of Mrs. Shirley�s relatives in this connection was Gen. Matthew Stanley, of Chambersburg, for whom Hon. Matthew S. Quay was named.

William Moorhead, father of Mrs. Shirley, was born Sept. 28, 1801, in Chambersburg, where he was reared. In Butler county he learned the trade of blacksmith and machinist, and after finishing his apprenticeship went to New Orleans as engineer on a steamer. He speculated in cotton and coffee, and became a man of considerable means. In 1828 he married Harriet Holmes, of Pittsburgh, and in the fall of that year came to Freeport, opening a shop here the same year. Here he made his home the remainder of his life, building his residence in 1830. His business prospered, the activities at the salt mines bringing him much work preparing and repairing tools for that industry. For several years he was a United States storekeeper, and he was also active in other ways until his retirement at the age of sixty-four years. Mr. Moorhead was a man of fine mind, a great reader, especially of history, had a strong character, and was noted for the strictest integrity in all the relations of life. Though free from pretense, and without desiring honors for himself, he was prominent in local affairs and held various offices, being a member of the council, a school director, etc. When the State of Pennsylvania was invaded, though sixty-four years old, he volunteered his services, and did post duty at Gettysburg. He was a charter member of the First Presbyterian Church of Freeport, but though frequently solicited to service as elder, refused to hold that or any other office in the church on the ground that he had decided views on some questions and had no wish to quarrel with any who might criticize his actions in that position. His character may well be judged by the friends he had, for he was an associate of such men as Judge Thomas M. Howe, Judge Wilson McCandless, and the widely known Dr. Alter, of Freeport, inventor and scientist, whose scientific discoveries have brought reputation to himself and the town; he was also an intimate friend of Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of war.

By his first wife, Harriet Holmes, Mr. Moorhead had children as follows: (1) Stanley R., an oil contractor, of Karns City, who also owned a farm, died June 1, 1898; he married Lizzie McDermit, and had two daughters, Harriet and Sevalka. (2) William Henry married Lizzie La Verea, a French Canadian, of North Dakota, where he was employed by the Hudson Bay Company, later owning a large tract of land and an undertaking establishment at Pembina, N. Dak.; the town of Moorhead, that State, was named for him. He died July 3, 1897. His children were: James, Stanley, Shepley, Mary, Delia, and one or two who died in infancy. (3) Shepley W., who died Jan. 13, 1876, unmarried, was engaged as an oil producer at Oil City, Titusville, Parker, and other places in Pennsylvania. (4) David Milton, who was engaged in the production of oil with his brother Shepley, died Aug. 17, 1894. He married Anna Rutter, of Arnold, Pa.,; they had no children. He served three years in the Civil war, being a member of Company A, 8th Pennsylvania Reserves, under Captain Heney, of Kittanning, and later became a member of the U.V.L. (5) Sylvester, born Sept. 10, 1831, died Oct. 5, 1842. (6) Maxwell, born July 5, 1838, died July 10, 1838. For his second wife William Moorhead married May 4, 1845, Mary J. Miller, who was born March 1, 1815, daughter of John and Isabella (Brown) Miller, natives of Ireland, of Scotch-Irish origin, who resided on a farm one mile from Freeport, in Harrison township, Allegheny Co., Pa.; they were United Presbyterians. Mrs. Moorhead was a Presbyterian like her husband. She survived him, his death occurring Sept. 17, 1890, hers on March 20, 1894. They were the parents of six children: John died when three years old; Martha A. is the wife of John T. Shirley, of Freeport; Harriet Holmes, who was named by her mother for her husband�s first wife, never married; Robert M., of Washington, Pa., a former gauger of the Standard Oil Company, married Caroline McVey, and they have one son, Robert F.; Mary Isabelle is the wife of George W. Wood, who was a contractor for the English Oil Syndicate, and they have one daughter, Mary Mildred (their family home is in Washington, Pa.); Elizabeth resides in Freeport. Mrs. Shirley may well be proud of her father�s standing in Freeport. A man of superior mold, an associate and friend of the most intelligent men of the day in this locality, he was highly thought of by all who knew him, and well deserved the reputation he bore. His social qualities have been transmitted to his children, and his family have always been noted for intellect and ability. As shown by her work in oil Mrs. Shipley has natural artistic talent.

Source: Pages 956-958, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed December 1998 by Kathy Zagorac for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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