John Sowash, Sr.

John Sowash, Sr. was born in Rockland Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, about 1765. According to History of Westmoreland County (Vol. 3, p. 42), he was born in Maryland, but this seems doubtful. He may have gone with his father to Berkeley, Virginia before migrating to Westmoreland County, PA, but there is no evidence of this.

At one time there was apparently a Revolutionary War marker beside John's grave, "A Soldier of the American Revolution, 1775-1783", but the marker was not there in 1986.  It was perhaps for his father Henry, although there was no gravestone for Henry.  No known record lists John's military service other than a reference in a Westmoreland County, PA history.   If John were born in 1765, it seems impossible that he served as he was too young.  However, descendants of this line qualify to join Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution through his father Heinrich Sowash.

He seems to be single and living with his brother Daniel in the 1790 census in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, PA.

Shortly after the 1790 census was taken, he married Catherine Thomas, probably in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  Catherine was born 2 Aug 1770 in Lancaster Co., PA., the daughter of Garret/Gearhardt and Mary Magdalene (________) Thomas), proven by Garret's will dated 1797. John was listed as John Shovice in Garrett's will.  A Gerhart Thomas (Garhart Tames) was the signer of a petition to Governor Penn in 1774 for protection against the Virginians in Lord Dunmore's War.

According to History of Westmoreland County (Vol 3, p.42), upon his "marriage to Catherine Thomas, both of them having accumulated a little money, they jointly purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land in the site where Jacksonville, Westmoreland County now stands. John Sowash followed the occupation of a farmer during the remainder of his active working life. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, a lieutenant in the militia. In church connections, he was a Methodist. He and Catherine Sowash were the parents of 15 children, of whom three died young. Those attaining maturity were: Garrett, John, Joseph, David, Jacob, George, Elizabeth, Catherine, Sarah, Ann, Hannah, and Rachel."  Soash_05  History of Jacksonville

On 2 Jun 1792, John and Catherine served as sponsors at the baptism of Jacob and Peter Sowash, both sons of Daniel.  They were baptized by Reverend John William Weber, probably at the Brush Creek Reformed Church.

On 7 Aug 1797, John and wife Catherine (née Thomas) received 150 pounds from Barnard & Garret Thomas Jr as specified in the will of Catherine's father Garret Thomas Sr's will. Soash_34

On 16 Sep 1797, John & Isabella Hindman sold the Three Springs tract (144 acres) to John Sowash Sr for 262 pounds. They were the parents of Elizabeth Hindman who later married John Sowash/Soash Jr.  This land was located in North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, PA.  Soash_13  Map

On 07 Aug 1797, John and Catherine sold for 150 pounds to Barnard and Garrett Thomas, Jr. (Catherine's brothers) their part of the estate that Catherine inherited from her father Garrett Thomas after his death on 24 Jul 1797.   Soash_34

About 1798, the Fullerton Stagecoach Inn, next to John's land, was built on Old Trail Road by Humphrey Fullerton. It was the first general store in the area. Humphrey bought land from John Sowash Sr. The village of Jacksonville surrounded the hotel.

In the 1798 tax assessment, John had a 16 x 20' cabin and 30 x 50' barn. The buildings had a value of 10 pounds. He had 150 acres with a valuation of 900 pounds. His neighbor was John Hindman, whose daughter Elizabeth would later marry his son John Sowash/Soash, Jr.  Soash_4817

On 13 Dec 1805, John posted a five hundred pound security letter for David Phips as administrator of the estate of Elizabeth Croiningers.  In return John received the rights to "one sorrel horse about seven or eight years old, one black cow, one red do [cow?], three feather beds and bed clothes, household furniture consisting of potts [sic] and other small articles, two spinning wheels, one check reel, one washing tub, beef barrel, one churn and carpenters tools" if Phips failed on the administration bond.  Soash_1874  On 20 Aug 1810, John was granted letters de bonis non (secondary administrator) after the death of David Phipps.

On 08 Feb 1809, John released land in North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County for $96 to Humphrey Fullerton, apparently what he received from his father's estate. John signed this deed in German.  Humphrey Fullerton developed coal mines in the area so this may have been a potential coal mine.  Soash_146

John Sowash, Sr. was listed in the 1810 North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, PA. census with three males under 10 (David, Jacob, and George), two males 10-16 (Joseph and John, Jr.), and one male 26-45 (himself). Also listed were three females under 10 (Catherine, Sarah, and Hannah), two females 10-16 (Elizabeth and Esther), one female 16-26 (perhaps Mary (Sowash) Bowers - see below), and one female 26-45 (wife Catherine Thomas Sowash). Looking at the list of children, this possible distribution omits Henry/Garrett, and Absolon who may have died before 1810. Ann and Rachel were yet to be born.  Soash_4815  The History of Westmoreland County (Vol 3, p.42) stated that Garrett grew to adulthood, but no trace of him as been found. Soash_05

John appeared the 1811 and 1812 North Huntingdon Township tax records with 150 acres (which he kept until 1820), with 3 horses and 4 cows. He had 150 acres, 2 horses and 3 cows in 1813, 150 acres, 0 horses and 3 cows in 1814, 150 acres, 4 horses and 4 cows in 1815-16, 150 acres, 2 horses and 4 cows in 1817-18, and 150 acres, 2 horses and 3 cows in 1819. From 1820-2 he owned only 100 acres, one horse and one cow. In 1823 he again had 150 acres with 2 horses and 3 cows. He kept the land and 1 cow in 1824-25. He sold half of his land to his son John Sowash, Jr., so in 1825-27 he had 82 acres and 1 cow. In 1828, the year after he died, his name was listed as "Removed" although his wife Catherine was still living there.

In 1811 John and his wife Catherine (Thomas) Sowash sold her share of her father Garret Thomas to her brother Barnard Thomas.

On 08 Apr 1811 John sold a part of the "plantation which the said John Sowash now lives on near the East end of said place including a coal bank beginning at a Maple tree thence . . . North twelve perches to a white oak south twelve perches to a Maple sapling and west twelve perches to the place of beginning . . . ." (Bk. 13, p. 43) It would be interesting to see if the saplings are still there and if the purchaser of the coal mine, William Fullerton, made his fortune.  This may be the same tract that he released to Humphrey Fullerton in 1809.

On 17 Aug 1816, the cornerstone for the new brick Salem Church (now Brush Creek United Church of Christ) was laid, being completed in 1820 at a cost of $4,500. John's funeral took place in this church in 1827. As was common at the time, the Reformed and Lutheran Churches built one church, sharing costs and expenses. They alternated Sundays or one group would meet Sunday morning and the other in the afternoon. This continued at Brush Creek until 1958 when the churches separated. It didn't matter which church baptized children, but they were usually confirmed by their own minister. Reverend John Michael Steck served the Lutheran Church while Reverend John William Weber served the Reformed Church.

On 8 Apr 1818, John sold 144 perches of land to William Fullerton that contained a coal bank for $25. Soash_145

John appeared in the 1820 North Huntingdon Township census. 1 m 10-15 (George), 1 m 16-18 (Jacob), 4 m 16-25 (Jacob, David, Joseph, John Jr), 1 m over 45 (John Sr); 2 f under 10 (Rachel, Anna Maria), 2 f 10-15 (Hannah, Sarah), 3 f 16-25 (Catherine, Mary, ??? perhaps a servant), 1 f 26-45 (wife Catherine would have been 50, but this must be her).  Soash_4816

On 11 April 1823 John Sowash Sr sold 83+ acres of his land to his son John Soash Jr, who had married Elizabeth Hindman, the daughter of John and Isabella Hindman, from whom John Sr had originally purchased 134 acres in 1797.

On 14 Dec 1826, an article of agreement was signed between John Sowash, Sr. and John Sowash, Jr. saying that a new survey was made of the partition of land sold to John, Jr. on 11 April 1823 and that John Sowash, Sr had 83 acres, 12 perches after the partition.

John Sowash, Sr. made his will 31 Jul 1827.  Soash_03  John signed the will himself and used the name "Johanns Sowass". The influence of the German community was still strong in the area.  John Sowash Jr received $1, considering the price at which he purchased land and other items. Daughter Esther Sowash McCormick 1/11th, son Joseph Sowash 1/11th, son David 1/11th, daughter Elizabeth 1/11th , son Jacob 1/11th, daughter Catherine 1/11th, son George 1/11th, daughter Sarah 1/11th, minor daughters Anne and Rachel 1/11th each.  Daughter Mary Sowash Bowers $1 to be equally divided between her children and appointing John's friend Adam Saana (?) be a guardian for the minor children.  His beloved wife Catherine. William Wilson and John McCormick were named executors. Humphrey Fullerton and Thomas McCormick, witnesses.

I John Sowash Senr. in the Township of North Huntingdon in Westmoreland County Penn being weak in body but of sound mind, memory and understanding, praise be God for it, and considering the certainty of death & the uncertainty of the time thereof, and to the intent that I may be the better prepared to leave this world whenever it shall please God to call me hence do Herefore make & declare this my Last Will & Testament respecting the distribution of That Estate where with God hath Blessed me. That is to say, 1st I order and direct That all my just debts oweing [sic] at the decease, together with my Funeral expenses & all charges touching the proving of or Otherwise concerning this will shall in the first place out of My personal Estate be fully paid & satisfied And from & after payment thereof & Subject thereto, Then it is My Will That all the Residue of my Goods, Stocks, Merchansize [sic], Lands, & Household Furniture shall be impartially and Truely [sic] appraised & sale thereof made. Then It is my will that the proceeds thereof be divided among my children in the Following manner, viz To My Son John Junior I Give & Bequeath the sum of one dollar which will I believe make his share equal to the share of any of my other Children, Taking into consideration The price at which I sold him his land & the value of other articles which he received from me. The Residue I order & Direct to be distributed of in Manner as Follows, To My Daughter Easter Sowash McCormick I give & bequeath one Eleventh part thereof. To My Son Joseph I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Son David I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Daughter Elizabeth I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Son Jacob I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Daughter Catherine I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Son George I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To My Daughter Sarah I Give & Bequeath one other equal Eleventh part thereof. To my two minor daughters Ann & Rachel I Give & Bequeath each one equal Eleventh part thereof. And should it so happen that they My Daughters Ann & Rachel have not received each a bed & bureau before the time that this Will is executed I do hereby order & direct a sum equal in value to said pieces of Furniture be made up to them which sum shall be raised from the aforesaid eleven shares equally, & as my Daughters which are now married have each of them received a Bureau & cow from me, It is my will That should any of my daughters liveing [sic] at home at the time of my Decease, not be provided for in like manner, That such provision be made for them, or the value thereof raised in the same manner as above directed to be done to my now minor children of the remaining eleventh share. I Give & Bequeath to my Daughter Mary Sowash Bowers the sum of one Dollar to be paid out of the first monies received by my Executors out of my Real estate & the residue of said share, I Give & bequeath to the children of the Said Mary Bowers to be equally divided among them. An I do hereby declare that it is my will That my _____ friend Adam Saar [?] be a Guardian and caretaker for each & every of the children of the aforesaid Mary Bowers until they shall arrive at an age to choose for themselves. Their respective shares with the increase thereof to be paid when they separately [?] come of age. But as it may happen them my Beloved Wife Catherine may survive me, it is my [wish ?] in such circumstance, That at my decease so much of my personal estate as will be necessary to discharge my Just debts Funeral expences [sic] & it be sold by my Executor & appropriated to that use but the residue thereof, together with my real Estate to remain unsold during her natural life. The profits, Rents, and Interest ariseing [sic] of there from to be used by her, for her maintenance & comfort, & the support of such of my Daughters as may remain at home unmarried provided that the same be prudently used & no unnecessary consumption thereof made. And I make & ordain William Wilson & John McCormick Executors of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & Seal this Thirty first day of July one thousand eight hundred & Twenty Seven.

Johanns Sowass

Signed sealed & delivered in Presence of Humphrey Fullerton Thomas McCormick

John died 05 Dec 1827 on his farm in North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, PA. and was buried in Brush Creek Cemetery, seven years after the completion of the brick Brush Creek United Church of Christ.  It is quite an experience to sit in the church, realizing that John's funeral took place in the same building.  Many other Sowash family funerals would have been conducted in the same church.   History of Brush Creek Church

At the time of his death, local sandstone was the most common stone for gravestones. However, by the time his wife Catherine died in 1851, undertakers were pushing a new, and more expensive, stone - marble. Ironically, the old sandstone held up very well over the years while the soft marble eroded away. The Sauvage/Sowash/Soash Family Association replaced John's sandstone gravestone, which was starting to erode, with a new stone and had Catherine's stone re-engraved.

John's will was proven on 13 Dec 1827. 

In October 1829, an inventory of John's estate was submitted. Soash_1609

From 1829-1836, John's children sold their shares of the estate to brother George Sowash - Sarah Poist & husband Jacob 12 Dec 1829, Joseph Sowash 4 May 1830, David Sowash 1 Sep 1830, Jacob Sowash 1 Feb 1831, Esther McCormick 21 Sep 1836  Soash_08

Catherine (Thomas) Sowash appeared in the 1830 North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County census with 1 f under 5 (???), 1 f 10-15 (Rachel), 1 f 15-20 (Ann), 2 f 20-30 (Sarah & Catherine), 1 f 30-40 (Elizabeth), 1 f 50-60 (Catherine).   Soash_4818

She appeared the 1840 census with 1 female 60-70 (Catherine), two females 30-40 (daughters Catherine and Sarah or Hannah), two females 20-30 (Ann and Rachel), and one female 5-10 (unknown-perhaps a servant or grandchild).  Soash_4062

Catherine appeared in the 1850 North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County census, age 81 and born in Pennsylvania. This would make her date of birth 1769 or 1770. With her were daughters Betsy (Elizabeth), age 45 (she fudged a little); Catherine, age 40 (a white lie); Anna, age 38 (the truth); Rachel, age 32 (not the truth); and Margaret, age 18. This last female cannot be a child of John and Catherine as John died before her birth. To date there was no known granddaughter or niece who would fit the 1832 birth date, but his Margaret does match up with the female age 5-10 in the 1840 census.  Soash_2936  Catherine's son George Sowash was living next door to her.

Catherine died in 1851, probably 04 August, although the burial stone is difficult to read other than 81 years. She was buried beside her husband in Brush Creek Cemetery.

Son David declined being administrator in favor of his brother George. Soash_10 There was an inventory of her estate, filed In 27 August 1851. Soash_1610

On 31 Aug 1851, George Sowash, administrator of Catherine's estate, sold some of her goods. Soash_1610

German Reformed Church records from Westmoreland County confirm these children, all born in North Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County, PA,  and most baptized at Brush Creek Reformed Church:


Tour of Westmoreland County, PA Sowash connections & sites   John Sowash Sr document packet