Sterling Family

STERLING FAMILY. In the settlement of every new country there are always transient settlers who make their appearance, perhaps to take advantage of cheap land, a small tract of which they cultivate for a few seasons, and then tire of even the faint dawn of civilization, and press on to some wilder frontier region, where they exist by hunting, trapping and fishing, thus spending an aimless, worthless life; but such was not the character of the sturdy Scotch-Irish people, among whom was numbered the founder of the Sterling family of Pennsylvania, Joseph Sterling.

Joseph Sterling, the American ancestor of the Sterlings of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, emigrated from the north of Ireland, it seems quite certain, in 1747. The place of his birth was in Londonderry. Ireland, in 1741, but of Scotch ancestry it is certain. He settled in one of the eastern counties of Pennsylvania, probably in York county, as his indenture for the farm named "Sterling's Nest," dated 1783, is to Joseph Sterling, of York, Pennsylvania. Another farm bought by him at an earlier date was to Joseph Sterling, of Washington county, Pennsylvania. In Westmoreland county, to which part of Pennsylvania he came in 1780, he purchased a tract of about three hundred acres situated in Derry township. He made for himself a name in Derry township. on what was ever afterward known as "Sterling's Nest." Here he enjoyed life and vigorously labored to subdue the forests for more than a quarter of a century, during which period he made for himself and family, consisting of a wife and four children, a comfortable home. He became a man of means and much influence in his community, and possessed the noble traits of integrity and hospitality, rearing his children with a keen sense of an accountability to God and fair dealing with their fellowmen. Let it here be recorded that his Christian training may be seen in a goodly degree in the lives of his remote descendants. He was not an active factor in politics, but intensely loyal to his adopted country and obedient to its laws.

Joseph Sterling married Mary Porter, of Scotch-Irish ancestry. Her exact nativity- is not known. Her ancestors possessed strong intellectual and Christian-like characters, making her an ideal helpmate for her husband, as well as a force in her little circle in those long-ago days. Among her ancestors was the once well known preacher, Rev. Porter, who was among if not the first to preach the Word at Congruity. It was he who, when first coming to this country, provided a habitation by fastening logs on puncheon slabs to the trunk of a giant tree which had by wind or other means been uprooted and laid up some distance from the earth at one end. This formed a fastening for one end of the rude, improvised "house," which served till a better could be provided. The children born to ancestor Joseph Sterling and wife Mary (Porter) Sterling were: 1. Rebeckah, who became the wife of William Robinson, ancestor of the Dunlaps, at old Salem church. 2. Mary, who married a Mr. Marshall. of Indiana county, Pennsylvania, ancestor of the Hazlets of Latrobe. 3. Janet. who married Joseph Glenn, of Butler county, Pennsylvania. 4. William, the only son, was born at the old Sterling homestead in 1772. probably in York, Pennsylvania. but not of a certainty. To the daughters Joseph Sterling gave a money portion. excepting Mrs. Robinson (Rebeckah) to whom he gave land now owned by the heirs, the Dunlaps. Joseph Sterling and wife Mary (Porter) Sterling died and were buried at old Salem church: the former in 1813 and the latter in 1822.

In the recorder's office at Greensburg, Pennsylvania, may be seen a copy of the original deed, which was beautifully inscribed on heavy- parchment, the same is still in the possession of the family and well preserved. It is recorded in deed book No. 2, page 360. The instrument was from James Eaton and wife and bears date of June 3. 1793, recorded April 19, 1796, by James Guthrie, recorder. It describes a tract in Derry township, consisting of two hundred and ninety-four acres and nineteen perches of land-the old homestead. The consideration was one hundred pounds sterling, lawful money of Pennsylvania. The original will, made on paper, is also in the hands of the descendants, the substance being as follows: "Will of Joseph Sterling: (Dated March 29, 1798). In the name of God, Amen! I, Joseph Sterling of Derry township, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, being sick of body, but of sound judgment, mind and memory, calling to mind the mortality of by body, knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do this 29th day of March, 1798, make and ordain this my last will and testament, in the following manner and form, and that is to say: That at my death my body is to be buried in a decent Christian way and manner, at the direction of my executors, nothing doubting but at the general resurrection I shall receive it again by the mighty power of God. And as touching such worldly estate, wherewith it has pleased. God to endow me with in this life, I do give, demise, and depose of the same in the following manner and form: After the full payment of my just debts, of my whole estate I bequeath to Mary, my beloved wife. the sum of ten pounds in lawful money, all my household goods, kitchen furniture, beds and clothing, one saddle, one of my best cows, six of my sheep, of her own choice; the free possession of the east end of my mansion-house, part of the kitchen, together with one-third of the profits arising from my farm, during her natural life; the grain to be delivered in the bushel and a sufficiency of hay, fodder, etc., to maintain one horse, one cow, and six sheep. To my loving daughter Rebeckah the sum of one pound lawful money, four years after my decease. To my nephew, Joseph Robison, I do give and bequeath the sum of five pounds lawful money, to be paid to his father four years after my decease for his schooling. To me daughter Mary I do give and bequeath my house clock to be delivered to her at my wife's decease. To my nephew, Joseph Marshall, I do give and bequeath the sum of five pounds lawful money, to be paid to his father, four years after my decease, for the use of said child's schooling. To my nephews, Joseph Sterling and Samuel Sterling, I do give and bequeath ten pounds, to be paid four years after my decease, for the use of said children's schooling. And my large Bible to the said Josepn. All the rest of my personal estate is to be equally divided betwixt my said children, William, Janet, Rebeckah, and Marv, with the exception that Elizabeth (an adopted daughter) shall have a heifer two years old. All my books, excepting my Bible. I leave at the disposal of my loving wife." Note: It should be remembered that prior to the making of this will, Mr. Sterling had already given a portion of his estate to each one of his four children in land or money.

II. William Sterling. only son of Joseph and -Mary (Porter) Sterling. born in 1772, was a man of strong character, with the highest sense of honor prompting his every act. He was a determined courageous man in his convictions. In his religious faith he held rigidly to that of the Presbyterian. He was a lover of good people and of Christian work: affectionate as a friend, and noted far and near for his hospitality. It was said of him that "He was gifted in prayer and mighty in the Scriptures." which he had read through many times. He also had a genius for singing, and was never more truly delighted than when singing hymns. To him the Sabbath and the house of God were sacred. i Of his means he gave freely to the support of the church of his choice. V' hile not active in politics, never aspiring to office. Yet keenly alive to his duty at the polls, he was a supporter of the old school Democracy until the days of the civil war, when he was greatly interested in the success of the Union cause. He was anti-slavery, and bitterly opposed to whisky in all forms. He served as a trustee in the old Salem church, which he cherished even as his life. He married Janet McQuiston, of Carlisle, born of Scotch-Irish parents, about 1772. She was once chased by the Indians to the fort at Hannastown. She was a grand character, a true wife, noble mother, and exemplary Christian. She died at a ripe old age, in 1845. Their children were: Joseph, James, Samuel, Margaret, Mary, Sarah, William, Robert, and Jane. After the death of his wife Mr. Sterling married a Mrs. Stuart, of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, who at his death removed to that place, but only survived him a short time. She was also of an excellent family and a devoted Christian lady. Each of the five sons received from their father a good farm, and the four daughters received the equivalent in money. Three of the sons became residents of Ohio; where their descendants still live. One son, Robert Sterling, lived and died on the farm near Hillsdale, and this place is now possessed by his heirs.

III. William Sterling, son of William and Janet (McQuiston) Sterling, was born at the old Sterling homestead, April 27, t8o8. He followed farming, and was highly respected and very successful. His education, not unlike many another in those early days before the free public school system was established, was of necessity limited, yet by force of character, high aim in life, and through careful reading became a well versed man. He was a high-minded and sound thinking man, who absorbed but the good from his superior associates with whom he mingled. He was ever loyal to church and state, and a life-long total abstainer, as had been his father, even to the use of tobacco. He exerted all his influence for the cause of temperance, which in his day and generation was not as popular as to-day. Like all of his forefathers, he was strictly of the Presbyterian faith, exemplifying it in his daily walk with men. For many years he was an elder in the old Salem church, which society had for generations been sustained by the Sterlings. His brother Robert was also an elder in the sane church. Aside from the office of elder William Sterling never held office, except that of school director in Derry township.

Mr. Sterling was twice married, first to Elizabeth, the sister of Dr. Donaldson, well known in Westmoreland county educational history. By this union two children were born, only one of whom survives, Jennie D. Sterling, married John Wineman, now deceased. Elizabeth (Donaldson) Sterling died, and for his second wife Mr. Sterling married Martha Hartley, daughter of James Marshall and wife, of Indiana county, Pennsylvania. She was born October 20, 1820, of like ancestry to that of Mr. Sterling. Martha Hartley Marshall's grandmother on her father's side was Jane Scott, and on her mother's side was Martha Hartley. Her mother's name was Margaret Kirkpatrick. William and Martha Hartley (Marshall) Sterling were the parents of the following children: Wilson C.. who became an attorney-at-law in Cleveland, Ohio, and died March, 1904, on the farm on which he was born. He attended Elder Ridge Academy, and subsequently graduated from Lafayette College. He first practiced law as a partner of Colonel Sanderson, of Youngstown. Ohio, and later removed to Cleveland. Ohio. He married Alice Reich, of Easton. Pennsylvania, who is now residing there. -Margaret. died in her young teens. Celia. Sarah, James M., of whom later: Edwin. William. Nettie. married Thomas Elder, of Derry township, died October 11, 1905. leaving a son, Thomas, aged two years.

James Marshall Sterling, son of William and Martha (Marshall) Sterling, was born at the old homestead in Derry township, Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, June z6, 1855. He obtained a common school education, and followed farming on the home farm until 1887, when, upon his marriage, he farmed three years in Derry township, near the old place, and for six years in Salem township. In 1896 he was made police officer for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company at Derry, serving three years, when he was elected as chief of police for the borough of Latrobe, his present home, and is still filling the position with full credit to himself and all law-abiding citizens of the borough. He is interested to quite an extent in the Latrobe brick works, a large plant, also in other enterprises. Politically Mr. Sterling is a staunch supporter of the Republican party principles. In church connections he is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Latrobe, of which he has been an elder since 1899, and had held the same office at the old Salem church before coming to Latrobe to reside. He is a member of the I. O. O. F., at Derry, Pennsylvania, and of the W. of W., at Latrobe. He married, February 17, 1887, at the old McConnell farm, near Congruity, Pennsylvania, Kate McConnell, daughter of David K. and Harriet (Sloan) McConnell, and sister of Judge Alexander. McConnell, of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. (See the family history of the McConnells elsewhere in this work.) Mrs. Sterling's father, David K. McConnell, died in 1900. Mr. and Mrs. James M. Sterling have children: Mary Alice, born December 24, 1888, Eleanor Culbertson. born bray 25, 1892, both at home, and attending the public schools of Latrobe.

Source: Page(s) 300-304, History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 by Nathan Zipfel for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (

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