THE WYNCOOP, MORGAN, SELBY, HAMTRAMCK FAMILIES
(By Miss Helen B. Pendleton)
(Read before the Society May 16, 1930)
As one turns into the main street of Shepherdstown from the railway station, a charming old house meets the eye. Set close to the street, with well-preserved colonial doors and windows, a harmonious front portico, the very bricks themselves in color and shape tell of ancient lineage. Mrs. George Billmyer lives in this commodious and beautifully preserved old house, and six generations of her kindred have lived there. Some account of these ancestors follows, but we shall begin with the earliest known owners of the house as far back as 1781, when we know that it was the most fashionable and best hotel in Shepherdstown.
The German element in the settlement of the Valley of Virginia is beginning to receive proper attention from historians, but that there was a notable, though small, migration of Hollanders has been somewhat overlooked. Even Joost Heydt,
whose name was afterwards phonetically spelled Jost Hite, has been said to have been a German and Alsatian, when his name would refute such a paternity,--though of course he may have emigrated from one of those countries. And it seems certain that a Hollander was, if not the first, certainly among the first to penetrate into the Valley, for John VanMeter, "The Indian Trader," was of Dutch parentage. The use of the word "Van" in this county as a Christian name, too, would indicate that there were Dutch families in the Valley, i.e., Van Banks and Van Harp, etc. Among them was the Wynkoop family, with numerous descendants in Pennsylvania and Virginia today. Their first American ancestor was a certain Cornelius Wynkoop, who is said to have migrated from Utrecht, in the United Dutch Netherlands, to New York, prior to 1655, thence to Albany, and finally to the vicinity of Kingston, N. Y. His wife was Marie Janse Langedyck, and they had seven children, five of them sons, whose numerous descendants in Pennsylvania and Virginia are collected and classified in a book published in 1904 by Richard Wynkoop, of Brooklyn, N. Y. (Knickerbocker Press). It is a carefully compiled piece of social research, and an interesting record of Dutch immigrants, showing that the Wynkoops intermarried with families who bear the most familiar Dutch names, viz: Ten Broeck, Ten Eyck, Brouwer, Broeck, DeWitt, Van Vliet, Beekman, Bogardus, etc. The famous Anneke Janse (Bogardus), whose numerous descendants gave the Trustees of Trinity Church so much trouble with the claim to the ground upon which the church is built, has descendants of this family name.
nection is an interesting one, since the wife of the first Thomas Shepherd was Elizabeth VanMetre, whose mother was a DuBois, both families having come from Kingston, N. Y. So there was probably some acquaintance among these families before they set out to explore and settle in the Valley. Gerrit Wynkoop had a son Gerrit, born 2nd of November, 1702, who married Susannah VanVliet, and this brings us to the Virginia Wynkoops, for their son Adrian Wynkoop and his wife, Sarah Randall, came on horseback from Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War and settled near what is now the dividing line between Berkeley and Jefferson counties on the Martinsburg road. He was taxed for 377 acres. Part of the original house in which he lived is still standing and the farm is now owned by Mr. Cross. Their son Garret Wynkoop and his wife, Sarah Martin, were the grandparents of the late Mr. Adrian Wynkoop, of Charles Town, where his widow now lives. They were the parents of Mrs. Llewellyn Potts, of Shepherdstown, Mr. Adrian Wynkoop and Mr. Brooks Wynkoop, of New York, Mrs. John Lucas, of California, and Mr. Francis Wynkoop, of Denver.
that this Wynkoop was said to have removed to Loudoun county, and the compiler thinks that he was a first cousin of the Adrian Wynkoop mentioned heretofore. Other members of the Wynkoop family were friends of Rumsey, for a Benjamin Wynkoop, of Philadelphia, was a member of the Rumseian Society formed in Philadelphia in 1788 to help Rumsey in his stay in England. Benjamin Wynkoop and Joseph Wynkoop were also witnesses to Rumsey's will, which he made just before he left this country.
A recent researcher has spoiled the romance tradition wove about the Billmyer house by showing that it was not built to its present size till 1792 and a smaller structure stood in its place when John Fitch arrived in 1789 to make inquiries about James Rumsey's steam boat, and, perhaps, get a glimpse of it. We know that Fitch did come to Shepherdstown for that purpose (Rumsey was far away in England) and that he went to this "tavern," where he met Charles Morrow, Rumsey's brother-in-law, who treated Fitch with scant courtesy, so that Fitch evidently feared that he would meet with personal violence, and the inquisitive inventor thought it wise to shorten his stay. Whether he got a chance to look at Rumsey's boat is not known. A legend grew up from this incident that indignant citizens threatened Fitch with tar and feathers and that they were prevented by Major Henry Bedinger, but it rests upon no other foundation than the above incident.
Part of the old deed reads as follows:
of the same place of the other part, witnesseth, that for and in consideration of the sum of three thousand dollars, they do hereby acknowledge, and thereof do release, acquit, and discharge the said Rawleigh Morgan, his heirs, Executors and Administrators, by these presents, they, the said Cornelius Wynkoop and Hannah, his wife, have granted, bargained and sold, and by these presents do grant, bargain and sell, unto the said Rawleigh Morgan and his heirs, a certain lot or parcel of land situated on German Street in Shepherd's Town, on which the brick house stands generally occupied as a tavern, which said lot or parcel of land is bounded as follows: Beginning on German Street in the middle of lot No. 27 and running thence with German Street eighty-five feet ten inches to another corner in Lot No. 26, thence at right angles with said German Street two hundred and six feet to the beginning; which said lot or parcel of land, hereby intended to be conveyed, is composed of one half of lot No. 27 purchased by Cornelius Wynkoop from Peter Woltz and Elizabeth his wife, by deed bearing date the 20th of March, 1781, and of one-third part of lot No. 26, purchased by said Cornelius Wynkoop from Philip Fisher and Sarah, his wife, by deed bearing date the 20th day of February, 1792, both which deeds are duly admitted of record in the county court of Berkeley, reference being thereto had will more fully appear, &c. Signed, Sealed and Delivered In Presence of
Far away from the sea where ships carried letters back and forth to their native land these early colonists were more cut off from civilization than the settlers in Tidewater, Virginia, Manhattan and Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania. Their lives of hard struggles with nature, wild beasts and Indians precluded any possibility of the leisure that makes for his-
torical recording. Consequently, we have a great deal of mere legend unsupported by real evidence. There are, however, several important studies which should be in the collections of the Historical Society, and I hope they will soon be there if they are not already.
While the German and Dutch settlers were undoubtedly the first to make homes in the Valley, they were soon overshadowed by the English-speaking people who took up lands and proceeded to make it legally an English colony. Among the earliest of these was Richard Morgan, of Welsh parentage, who came from New Jersey to Virginia about 1734. The little log house which is pointed out as his first residence is still standing, and should be preserved as one of the oldest houses in the Valley and as a typical pioneer home. There is no proof that it is the oldest house in the village. I doubt whether any house can be proved to have that honor.
In the deed his wife is named Elizabeth, and we judge from this that she was his second wife, for earlier deeds in the possession of Mrs. Billmyer give his wife's name as Lydia, and it is known that he married a Lydia Swearingen. Mrs. Billmyer thinks that his second wife's name was Elizabeth Claggett.
In the year 1795 a young man named Walter Bowie Selby was keeping a store of general merchandise in Shepherdstown in the building which used to be on the site of the present Reinhart building. His account book owned by his descendants shows that he had a lucrative business. (At one time he sold a "Dutch Oven" to Mr. Adrian Winecoop for 12 shillings, 10 pence). This Walter Bowie Selby was born April 20th, 1771, and is said to have come from Maryland, place and date unknown. His middle name, well known as a Maryland surname,
would seem to corroborate this. Eleanor Morgan, daughter of Raleigh Morgan, was born January 17th, 1782, but the date of her marriage to Walter Bowie Selby is unknown to the writer. The list of their children as is follows:
William Morgan Selby, born February 7th, 1799.These Selbys were closely related to the Swearingens who lived at Bellevue and some of them are buried there. There are persons now living who remember the two younger members of this family. Sarah Ellen Selby lived a long life in this house. She was the third wife of Col. Francis Hamtramck, whose second wife was her older sister, Eliza Claggett Selby. She was a delicate little old lady, who was always swathed in shawls for fear of taking cold, and was noted for entreating her friends to beware of wet feet because "Miss Sally Welshans was found dead in her bed!" (Can anyone now living tell us who Miss Sally Welshans was?)
Then there was old Mr. Henry Swearingen Selby, who lived over eighty-four years in the house without ever spending one night away from it! At the time of John Brown's trial he went to Charles Town, but walked back home that night. How many of us can remember this old man, stout and heavy-eyed, sitting day by day, rain or shine, on the street corner, then called "Harris' Corner," but where the Jefferson Security Bank blots out all but a memory.
So much for the Selby occupancy of the old house--but the most interesting personage who ever lived in it is yet to be mentioned.
Many Canadian supporters joined the American forces during the Revolution, and among them was a young man,
John Francis Hamtramck, son of Charles David Hamtramck and Marie Ann Bertin, who were married in Quebec November 26, 1753. This Charles David Hamtramck was the son of David Hamtramck and Adele Ganik, of Luxembourg, Diocese of Treves, Germany.
They had six children, but only two by this second wife grew to maturity. His second wife dying, he married her sister, the Sarah Ellen Selby mentioned before. Their son, Selby Hamtramck, was in the Civil War and died a prisoner in Fort Delaware. The second wife's daughters, Florence and Eliza, well remembered by all the older generation in Shepherdstown, made the old house a pleasant and hospitable place in their day. Florence inherited the house. She married Mr. James Harvey Shepherd, of New Orleans and Shepherdstown, and the present owner is her daughter.
often heard an imitation of his favorite song, which he used to give with gusto, accompanying himself on the guitar to one of Moore's Melodies.
"Lesbia hath a beaming eye,The gallant Major was also noted for political speeches, and certain peculiarities--or differences of speech were told of in after days. For instance he pronounced the words Pa and Ma in the manner of the French Canadians and like Southern Californians of French extraction. This called forth a cartoon by the writer's grandfather, who was a clever caricaturist, showing Major Hamtramck embracing William Henry Harrison with fervor, and underneath is written:
"'Twas thus the Major seized Old TipWe gather from this that he took the stump for his Guardian, whom he called "Pa-a," in the "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too" campaign. And in any collection which the Historical Society makes--as I hope it will do--of notable personages who lived in the county, mention should certainly be made of Col. John Francis Hamtramck.
After his death his widow lived on in the old house until her death, and then it became the property of Mrs. James H. Shepherd, whose granddaughter, Miss Elise Selby Billmyer, is probably the only young girl in Shepherdstown who is living
in a house where six generations of their family have lived successively.
This Indenture made this 28th day of November, 1837, between Walter B. Selby, of the first part, Sallie Selby of the second part, and John F. Hamtramck, of the third part, all of Shepherdstown, in Jefferson County, Virginia.
she may think proper and that he will, whenever required by said Sally Selby, by writing under her hand and seal attested by two witnesses, transfer the legal title to such person and to such uses as she may direct, but that she and she alone is to have any right to dispose of the same in the event of her marriage, it being the desire and intention of the said Walter B. Selby and the purpose of this trust is to give her the exclusive use and disposition of said, property without the control and interference of any husband that said Sally may hereafter have, and the said John F. Hamtramck for himself, his executor and administrator hereby covenants well and faithfully to execute the trust created.
Schedule referred to in the annexed deed:
1 Pair of Parlour Andirons & 2 Pair of Shovel & Tongs.Jefferson County Sct.
We David Snively & John Quigley--two justices of the peace for the county aforesaid in the State of Virginia do hereby certify that Walter B. Selby and John F. Hamtramck parties to the annexed deed bearing date the 28th of November, 1837, personally appeared before us in our county aforesaid and acknowledged the same to be their act & deed & desired us to certify their said acknowledgement to the clerk of the County Court for the County of Jefferson in Virginia in order that the same may be recorded.
Given under our hand & seal, this fourth day of December, 1837.
Pendleton, Helen Boteler, "The Wyncoop, Morgan, Selby, Hamtramck Families," Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, Charles Town, West Virginia, Vol. VIII, (December 1942), pp. 4-18.
Created November 11, 2003; Revised November 11, 2003
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