James S. Hitchman

JAMES S. HITCHMAN, one of the prosperous and enterprising citizens of Mount Pleasant, traces his ancestry back to an early period, the pioneer immigrant, who was an officer in an English regiment, having come to America when George III sat upon the throne of Great Britain. He became interested in the condition of the Colonies and sympathizing with them in their struggle for political liberty, he soon resigned his position and identified himself with the colonial cause, but refused several important military commands in the Continental army during the revolutionary struggle. His delicate sense of honor would not allow him to draw his sword against the country whose uniform he had worn and whose pay he had received for many years. He was a resident of Virginia.
William Hitchman, son of the emigrant ancestor, removed from his home in Virginia to Redstone Creek, in what is now Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and which was then supposed to belong to Virginia. After the close of the Revolutionary war he went to Maryland and there married Nancy Gillespie, who was an estimable woman and a member of a well-respected family, and who bore him twelve children, among whom were the following: James, John, William, Robert, Andrew, Samuel, Gillespie, David, Nellie, Elizabeth. Shortly after his marriage Mr. Hitchman removed to Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, where he followed farming. He was a member of the Presbyterian church.

John Hitchman, son of William and Nancy (Gillespie) Hitchman, was born in 1789. When the war of 1812 broke out he enlisted in a company commanded by Captain Reynolds, was commissioned first lieutenant, and was ordered with his regiment to Baltimore, Maryland, where he served until the close of the war. In 1828 he was elected brigade-inspector in the Pennsylvania militia with the rank of major and served in that position until 1836. For several years thereafter he engaged in mercantile business, and in the borough of Mount Pleasant, where the greater part of his life was spent, was highly regarded both as a business man and citizen. He married Mary Thompson, who was a descendant of the Thompson family, widely known and highly respected in the Cumberland valley. She was born at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, February 18, 1799, and died March 30, 1870, survived by her only child, William J. Hitchman. John Hitchman (father) died in March, 1846, aged fifty-seven years.

William J. Hitchman, only child of John and Mary (Thompson) Hitchman, was born at Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, July 8, 1838. Before he was eight years of age his father died and he was left entirely to the care of his excellent mother, who instructed him in those right and noble principles of action which characterized his mature manhood. The greater part of his boyhood was spent at Laurelville, which was a small village at the foot of Chestnut Ridge, and early in life he engaged in the tanning business, which he conducted later on an extensive scale with his father-in-law, James Shields, and subsequently was associated with Mr. Neel in the same industry. Before he attained his seventeenth year he was acting as village school teacher, and served in that capacity for several years. Prior to this he began dealing in stock in a small way, which business he constantly enlarged, and which he still continued to conduct after he became an independently wealthy man. He was early engaged in the manufacture of coke under the firm name of Stone, Hitchman & Co., with ovens in the vicinity of Tarrs. Later they established ovens known as the Morewood plant, and they conducted an extensive business along that line for that day. At the Centennial, in 1876, they received the medal for the best and finest grade of coke. About the year 1880 Mr. Hitchman began to deal extensively in coal and coal lands, and he also operated to some extent in the production of coal in both Westmoreland and Washington counties, both these industries netting him a handsome return.

He was among the early stockholders in the banking interests of the borough of Mount Pleasant, becoming interested in the First National Bank, of which institution he later became a director, was the active head of the same for many years, and at the time of his death was serving as vice-president. Later in company with William B. Neel and J. C. Crownover he formed the Mount Pleasant Bank, which they operated until 1893, when it became known as the Citizens National Bank of Mount Pleasant, and in this he held a directorship until his death. He was recognized as one of the ablest financiers of the county, conservative, but just. In 1884 he served as county chairman of the Republican party, and through his generalship the county went Republican, the first time in its history. He never sought political preferment, although a warm and active supporter of the party. He contributed largely in building up the town of Mount Pleasant, having erected a goodly number of buildings, and in various other ways added to its prosperity. He was a liberal, broad-minded man, well and favorably known throughout the community, and he possessed a host of true friends, who fully appreciated his great moral worth as a man and citizen. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, to the support of which he contributed liberally.

January 2, 1861, Mr. Hitchman married Elizabeth Shields, daughter of James Shields, of Mount Pleasant, and six sons and two daughters were born to them: Mary, unmarried; Alice E., also unmarried; James S., mentioned hereafter; Edward T., a coal operator at Wheeling, West Virginia, head of the Hitchman Coal & Coke Company; John D.; William M., a teller in the City Savings & Trust Company of Mount Pleasant; Walton M.; and Arthur. William J. Hitchman, father of these children, died September 26, 1894; he was survived by his wife, who is living at the present time (1905).

James S. Hitchman, eldest son of William J. and Elizabeth (Shields) Hitchman, was born in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, April 29, 1865. He attended the public schools of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and at Blairstown, New Jersey, and then entered Princeton College, but was shortly afterward called home to take up business duties. In 1886 he entered the First National Bank of Mount Pleasant in the capacity of teller, serving as such until 1893, when he was appointed to the presidency of the Citizens National Bank, which position he held until the reorganization, April 2, 1904, when it became known as the City Savings & Trust Company and he was elected president of the same. He is also largely interested in the coal industry, from which he derives a goodly income. He is a staunch Republican in politics, but not in any sense of the word an office-seeker, and exercises a potent influence in behalf of the party whose principles he advocates. He is one of the progressive young men of the community, keenly alive to everything which concerns in any way the well being of the town and county.

Source: Page(s) 187-189, History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed May 2007 by Nathan Zipfel for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)

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