A Pilcher Family History
Much of the early history of the Pilcher Family I obtained from the book, "Pilcher Family History", by Lucille Jackson Vernon; SLC Family History Library; LCN# 929.273 P641v. The remainder is formed from information obtained from my mother, and from stories and anecdotal histories from my maternal grandmother, Floy Elizabeth Williams Pilcher. Those I will relate as accurately as memory allows.
Please accept this as it was intended: a means of sharing with others the data I have found as I have researched my own origins.
The Pilcher Name
The name Pilcher is of English origin. It is found as a surname as early as the thirteenth century in the Hundred Rolls, where it appears in the form, "le Pilecher."
The name derives from an old English word, "pylece," (pilch) meaning an outer garment of skin dressed with hair. A "pilcher," therefore, was a maker or seller of pilches.
In early records the name is found as Pullchare, Pilchere, Pilter, Pilicher and Pylechere. One of the earliest records of the Sussex Pilchers (1292) is of a Warinle Pilichone, whose property adjoined land called "Fairfield."
The word "pilcher" in the early English also denoted a scabbard. Thus, Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet, uses the expression, "Will you pluck his sword out of his pilcher by the ears?" It was used also as a variation of the word "pilchard," as the name of a small herringlike fish...the clupea pilchardus... which appears each July in immense numbers on the Cornish coast of England.
Whatever the origin of the name, it is found at the beginning of the seventeenth century belonging to a large and influential family, entitled to display a Coat of Arms in the county of Kent, England in and about Dover, Canterbury and Margate. The records of the College of Arms, London (16-97, Visitation of Kent, Anno 1619), gives the pedigree at that time for four generations back of one Thomas Pilcher, the son of Thomas Pilcher, the son of John Pilcher, again the son of John Pilcher. Their Coat of Arms is described in Burke's General Armory of 1884:
'Three chevron (supposed by some writers to have been adopted from the bow of a war saddle which rises high in front), formed by drawing lines from the dexter base, meeting pyramidically, about the fess point, two other parallel lines drawn from the sinister base. Gules - red depicted by perpendicular lines. The Chapeau, a cap of maintenance of dignity, by the French called chapeau, a headgear of crimson velvet turned up, with ermine. Cockatrice - a monster with the wings and legs of a fowl, and the tail of a snake.
Dual Coronet is composed of eight leaves, all of equal height, above the rim. The caps of the coronets are of crimson velvet turned up with ermine, with button or tassel of gold or silver at the top.'
The Pilcher Brothers
There is not much information in the recorded history of the Pilcher brothers. What is known is mostly information passed on from one generation to the next by word of mouth; however, several did write short genealogies and published them for posterity. It is said that the brothers were among those who made up the Colony from Wales group, coming to America sometime in 1725. Family knowledge generally indicates there were four brothers, all born in Wales. Upon coming to America, they settled in Old Stafford County (later to become Prince William County) of Virginia. They were the sons of Richard Pilcher. Their father did not accompany his sons to America. There are records in England and Wales that show families of Pilchers lived there for several centuries, as early as 1520.
One genealogical record of the Pilcher family was written by a Major James Evelyn Pilcher, Medical Corps, U.S.A. (son of Elijah Holmes Pilcher), between the years 1895 and 1905. Major James Pilcher was able to confirm the descendents of two of the four brothers who came to America from Wales around 1725 and settled in Virginia. This was done through an extensive correspondence which was carried on throughout the States with members of the Pilcher family.
One piece of interesting information gleaned from this correspondence is that the brother of Major James Pilcher (Stephen Lewis Pilcher) was the author of many books, two of which ("A Surgical Pilgrim's Progress" and "Stephen Pilcher, 1772-1853") included many notes and references on the Pilcher family in the United States.
In 1910, Mrs. Margaret Campbell Pilcher published a valuable genealogical history entitled, "The Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families." Though it was devoted chiefly to the Campbell family, it did contain information and sketches of the Pilcher family. This section was prepared by her husband, James Stewart Pilcher, a descendent of Robert Pilcher, one of the four brothers from Wales.
Through the author of these two valuable books, as well as contacts made among the various Pilcher family members, the fact began to emerge that the founding of the Pilcher family in America was through these four brothers, Caleb, Robert, John and Benjamin. The branches of Caleb and Robert Pilcher have already been fairly adequately documented. The large branch of Richard Pilcher, born in Virginia, has also been established; however, whether John or Benjamin was the father of Richard has not been clearly determined or confirmed.
Caleb Pilcher: Immigrant Son of Richard
*Caleb Pilcher (* preceding or following a name indicates my direct-line ancestor) was born in Wales around 1706. As tradition goes, he was the son of *Richard Pilcher who did not accompany his son to America. Caleb, along with his three brothers, John, Benjamin and Robert, emigrated to the colonies around 1725, first settling in Maryland and then moving to the part of Virginia now known as Prince William County, Virginia.
The vagueness of tradition is shown in the information received from various sources on the family of Caleb Pilcher. *Mr. Nathan Selby Pilcher, born in 1808 and the son of Stephen (and grandson of *James who married Nancy Murphy), gave information that his great grandfather's name was Caleb Pilcher.
In the Overwharton records of Old Stafford County it is recorded that one *Stephen Pilcher married Lucy Clark on 7 November 1748. They had a son, *James, born 17 February 1750.
In Mr. Lewis Stephen Pilcher's book, he names the children of Stephen as James, Samuel and Elizabeth Pilcher. In Mrs. Campbell Pilcher's book, she lists the names of these same children as being James, Stephen and Mary Pilcher. It is assumed that the Stephen that married Lucy Clark was the son of Caleb and the father of James, who married Nancy Murphy. Stephen also had a son named Stephen, Jr., who married Chloe Bland and had three sons; Jesse, John and Moses.
*James Pilcher: Son of Stephen Pilcher
*James Pilcher, according to the Overwharton Parish records of Old Stafford County, Virginia, was born in Dumphrees County on 17 February 1750. He married Nancy Murphy, who bore him 10 children. At the age of 55, James accompanied his sons Stephen, Elijah, James and William, and his daughters and their families to Ohio. There they settled on the banks of the Hocking River. No information is available on James after the move.
The children of James and Nancy Murphy Pilcher were:
- James, Jr.
- Nancy (who married a Mr. Simmons)
- William and
- Rachel, who was born in 1788. In November of 1813, she married William Thompson. Rachel died in Adams County, Illinois in 1851.
*Stephen Pilcher: A Colonist, Pioneer, & Son of James
At the start of the nineteenth century many families in the north-western part of Virginia made movements away from their original settlements. Some went north, some south, and others west. Among those heading into the new lands of the west were several entire families from the counties of Loudon, Stafford and Culpepper. Included in this group were families of the Pilchers."Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."
Our story here concerns *Stephen Pilcher, son of James and Nancy Murphy Pilcher.
Stephen was born in Dumphries, Prince William County, Virginia on 6 October 1772. He lived to be 81 years of age, dying 27 October 1853 on a farm which he built himself on land he purchased on the Hocking River in Canaan Township, Athens County, Ohio.
The only knowledge we can gain of his first 30 years of life is that he married Sarah Fishback in 1794. Sarah was the daughter of Phillip Fishback. This marriage bore Stephen six children. They were:
- Catherine (Kitty)
- Nancy, born in 1797
- Marie, born in 1798
- George Fishback, born in 1800
- Henry Eckhart, born in 1802, and
- Sarah (Sally), born in 1804.
Within a month after the birth of Sally, Sarah Fishback Pilcher died (5 February 1804). This left Stephen with a four-week-old baby and five other children under the age of nine to care for.
During those days and times it was not uncommon for a widow or widower with a large family to remarry soon after the death of a spouse. It became a necessity for the sake of a young family to have both parents to continue a home-like way of life. Therefore, it is not surprising to learn that Stephen was married again the same year, in June, to Eleanor Jackson Selby of Baltimore, Maryland. From this marriage seven additional children were born. They were:
- Nathan Selby*
- Elijah Holmes
- James Fletcher
- Joshua Selby and
- Eleanor F.
All the children of Stephen and Sarah Fishback Pilcher were born in Virginia. They all came to maturity, married and reared families, except Marie, who remained unmarried. Of the children born to Stephen and Eleanor Selby Pilcher, the last three died young - James Fletcher at age three; Joshua Selby at age fourteen; and Eleanor F. at age ten. The remaining four children married and reared families.
*Nathan Selby Pilcher married Mary Ann Swisher on 14 Nov 1835, in Athens, Athens Co., OH. Children born to them were:
- James Henry*, born 13 Dec 1836; married Mary Alice Clute
- Westfall F, born in 1838
- Jesse B., born in 1840
- Lydia B., born in 1842
- John W., born in 1847
- Elijah P., born in 1848
*James Henry Pilcher married Mary Alice Clute on 1 Jan 1863 in Warren Co., IL. Their children included:
- Jessie Florence, born on 27 Apr 1864 in Chatham, Sangamon, IL
- Fred Curtis, born on 14 Nov 1866 in Chatham. He married Nellie Reese on 14 May 1897
- James Albert, born on 25 Aug 1868 in Chatham
- Lillian May, born on 5 May 1871 in Chatham. She married David Neil on 16 Jan 1889
- Harry Woodford, born on 27 Feb 1874 in Republic, IL. Harry married Caroline Lillian Churchill in Alexis Co., KS
- Mary Ann, born on 2 Feb 1877 in Courtland, Republic, KS
- Nathan Selby Pilcher, born on 27 Sep 1879 in Courtland. Nathan married Lillie Jewett
- Nellie Elizabeth, born on 4 Jan 1882 in Courtland
- Carl Arthur*, born on 20 Jun 1884 in Courtland. Carl married Floy Elizabeth Williams on 17 Nov 1910 in Belleville, KS, and,
- Beatrice, born in 1886, and died shortly after birth
As noted before, entire families moved westward. Stephen Pilcher was thirty three years of age when he joined his father James, his Uncle Stephen and Aunt Dorcas (MacCabee), and his married sisters, Sally (Halbert) and Nancy (Simmons) for their trek across country. His brothers William, Elijah, James, and John also joined the company. They followed the track of Braddock's old road from Hanover Court House to Culpepper to Chester's Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains; there crossing the Shenandoah into Frederick County to Winchester, Old Fort, and on to the Youghiogheny River. It was here they boarded flat boats and made their way to what was an expectation of rich, fertile lands, which would enable them to contribute their share to the task of conquering the wilderness and carving out the new empire of the West.
In the earlier days of trekking to unknown or newly explored areas, it was customary to follow streams and rivers, for it was along this pathway that settlements and lines of travel prevailed. The Hocking River at that time was much deeper and made such passage for the heavily-laden barges to travel the waterways which brought the pioneers and their goods down the Ohio River. The richness of these bottom lands was unmistakable, and here the Pilcher brothers selected the sites for their new homes. The farm of Stephen lay just about twenty miles above the point where the Hocking River empties into the Ohio, and about seven miles south of Athens, Ohio.
Shortly before leaving Virginia, Stephen had joined the Methodist-Episcopal Church, and at once upon his arrival in Ohio, he began to enter in the religious activities of the community. Preaching and prayer sessions were often held in his home. This led to the establishment of the first church in this part of the country on his farm. He established what could be called in that day and time, an open-door policy for traveling preachers - a place where they were able to stop for a meal and spend a comfortable night.
In his earlier years, he took charge of school activities at several different times in the winter months. He lived as a farmer, but was a stone mason, and followed his calling during the parts of the year suitable for building, leaving the work on the farm to his sons.
In 1787 the Congress of the United States encouraged and specifically mentioned that schools and the means of education should be pursued to the fullest possible extent in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. One of the first acts of the new territory of Ohio, on 9 January 1802, was to provide for the establishment of a university in the town of Athens. This became the first institution of higher learning established west and north of the Ohio River. The Ohio University was opened to students in the spring of 1808. It was this need and increase in the growth and development of education that led to the head of the contracting masons to make Stephen Pilcher the head contractor of the required building in 1817. The building thus erected by Stephen Pilcher became known as "Cutler Hall." In the same year, Stephen was elected as a Justice of the Peace and held that office, being first in it, longer than any other man in that part of the country, so that he was commonly known as "Squire Pilcher."
It later became known that oil and coal had been discovered below the surface of the lands that Stephen and his brother Elijah had purchased on the Hocking River. The shafts of the Hocking Valley Coal Company from its main shaft of over 400 feet in depth, extended over a long distance in every direction, forming a honeycomb of tunnels throughout the coal deposits. The pump and other machinery for obtaining oil from the Pilcher lands still stood, together with the iron reservoir for the reception of the oil. The supply of oil was abundant at first, but soon exhausted itself, and for some years had been abandoned.
Stephen had given land in 1811 for the erection of a Methodist church. The church was a comparatively modern structure, and to the rear was established a well-kept graveyard. Behind this was a desolate and neglected field run over with vines and weeds, surrounded by a rusty barbed wire fence, belonging to the township of Canaan, Ohio. Dr. Stephen Pilcher had been informed that his grandfather was buried in this field. After a long search, they found, lying prone upon the ground, a marble slab containing the words:
"Stephen Pilcher died October 27, 1853, in the 81st year of his age."
Dr. Pilcher, assisted by his cousins, lifted the fallen slab to photograph the scene. He writes that it was with a sense of humiliation that they laid the stone back in its former place and left the cemetery, firm in the resolution that there should be no delay in clearing away the knoll and replacing the fallen headstone.
Leaving the Canaanville Church yard, he went in search of someone who might possibly remember Stephen Pilcher. He found a Mr. Charles Henry, a well preserved man of seventy-seven years, who was a boy around eleven when Stephen died. Mr. Henry stated that he remembered Stephen Pilcher very well, and that he had often seen him. He recalled him as an old feeble man of medium height and slender build. However, this was last of personal information one could get from him.
My Branch of the Pilcher Tree
My mother was the fourth and youngest child of Carl Arthur Pilcher and Floy Elizabeth (Williams) Pilcher. Life was not easy for her. She grew up during the Depression and her family knew its share of hardships. Her earliest memories were of living in Kansas. Grandma ran a store, and Grandpa turned the crank on the films that were shown in the theater next door. Mom recalls trying to read the words that flashed across the screen, but her reading skills weren't good enough yet to allow her to keep up. Usually she would wake the next morning in her bed, unaware of how she got there.
Grandpa traveled in search of work, and for a time worked on a shrimp boat in the gulf of Texas. Eventually he came to the Pacific Northwest and sent for his family. They initially stayed at the Fir Grove Auto Park until grandpa could build a home for his family. Their first home in Marysville, which Grandpa built, was a log cabin just beyond Strand's Boulevard grocery on Sunnyside Boulevard between 3rd and 4th street. They lived there for a year, and when mom was five (1927) they moved near Port Townsend, Washington, where mom grew up.
The first home on the peninsula was at Glen Cove. Grandma Pilcher bought property there and grandpa built a three bedroom home for the family. Grandpa later built homes at Glen Cove for Dale Williams, Grandma's brother, who had come west from Kansas, and also a home for mom's brother, Larry. The final home built at Glen cove was a second home for his own family...another three bedroom home, this time with indoor plumbing.
During the Depression while living at Glen Cove grandma kept about 500 rabbits. They had a dog named Ginger, and each time one of the rabbits had babies Ginger would come scratching at the back door for grandma. Ginger would then take grandma right to the hutch where the new babies were born! Often grandma would name the rabbits. One pair in particular were special to grandma, and she named them Rosie and Rudolph. Grandma bought the big house in Port Townsend while Mary was still in school. Grandma turned the large home into a boarding house and ran it as well as an optical business. (Both of my grandparents were licensed opticians, and had been since they lived in Kansas.)
My mother's father, *Carl Arthur Pilcher, was born on the 20th of June, 1884 in Courtland, Republic Co., Kansas to *James Henry Pilcher and Mary Alice Clute. James Henry Pilcher was the son of *Nathan Selby Pilcher and Mary Ann Swisher. Grandpa worked in the lumber mill in Port Townsend until he was around 40 years of age. At that time he decided to retire.
Grandpa Pilcher was a small man, about five feet tall, with a fringe of hair around the back of his head. He had a "wayward" eye, which used to be referred to as "cockeyed". My memories are of him at home doing the cooking, tending his garden, and his chickens. There was a bureau in the kitchen which contained hardened marshmallows, black licorice, and horehound candy. To this day I prefer my marshmallows and black licorice both hard and stale! I have a lot of fond memories of my mother's parents. Grandpa used to sit by the fire and let his grandchildren roast marshmallows there with him in the front room.
I also remember the spittoon which was placed by his chair, ready for the tobacco juice that would be forthcoming! We learned at a tender age that it was hazardous to sit in the back seat of the car when grandpa was with mom in the front. When he spat his tobacco juice out the front window it would find its way into the back with us! The "duck and cover" slogan of the 50's cold-war era, designed to prepare us for the eventuality of nuclear war, held a special meaning for my brother and I! Grandpa often made a "rattlesnake" out of an empty chewing-tobacco can by punching holes in the top and bottom, stringing a rubber band through the hole, which was held in place with toothpicks. In the center of the rubber band he placed another piece of toothpick, which he would wind up and close the lid. When it was opened, the release would cause the band to unwind resulting in a sound that resembled a shaking rattlesnake tail.
Grandpa was a gifted carpenter, and I was the happy recipient of wooden guns which shot rubber bands, as well as a doll cradle and a dish cabinet for my toy dishes I had as small child.
Mom's mother, Floy Elizabeth Williams, was born on the 9th of March, 1892, to Joseph Hooker Williams and Mary Ellen (Molly) Sparger (Wolfersperger), in Villisca, Montgomery Co., Iowa.
My first recollection of grandma and grandpa's home was the house they had on the Pilchuck River at Machias, Snohomish Co., Washington. The house was just over the bridge, with the river flowing behind it. A small tributary flowed beside the house, spilling into the river out back. I have special memories of staying with my grandparents, sleeping in an upstairs bedroom, with a bed-spread over me which grandma hand-crocheted. As I lay there at night I could hear the water flowing by, and the sounds of wind in the trees and the croaking of frogs as they serenaded one another in the twilight hours before dark descended.
During the summer of 1951 we lived with mom's parents while mom and dad searched for a home for us. My uncle Bob also lived there with his family that summer, so, although it was crowded, we had an opportunity to become friends with my new cousins. Uncle Bob had married two years before and had two step-daughters, whom he adopted. We had little opportunity to spend much time with them as we grew up, because Uncle Bob was in the Navy. He didn't retire from the military until shortly before his death from coronary artery disease in 1964 so that summer of '51 was a special one. We swam in the river behind the house, and spent many hours searching the riverbed for periwinkles to use as bait for the fishing poles we fashioned out of twigs and straight pins!
We adopted grandpa's ducks which we quickly named "Hewey", "Dewey", and "Lewey" after Donald Duck's nephews. It was much to our dismay when we found later that we were to eat our feathered friends for dinner one Sunday!
Grandma was an avid reader, and every home she lived in had a library, which held a variety of books. Her encyclopedia set was especially fascinating! The pictures were prefaced with tissue, and were in color, which was not commonly found in books in those days. However, my favorite books were the mysteries: Perry Mason, A.A. Fair, H.P. Lovecraft, and a host of others. It wasn't until my required reading in high school, where I was assigned stories by John Steinbeck, that my grandmother disapproved of anything I chose to read. She considered Steinbeck's writings "smutty".
Grandma was frequently enrolled at the community college, taking courses to keep abreast of education. This practice continued until she suffered a stroke at age 73. Education was very important to her. She graduated from high-school when she was 16, and earned her certificate in Optometry when she was seventeen. During the years I was growing up she ran a realty company in Everett. She began her business shortly after the depression, picking up the first homes she purchased by paying for the back taxes. She ran her business, Pilcher Realty, until her stroke and death in 1966.
Grandma involved herself in community affairs. She was one of the founding members of the Snohomish County Historical Society, and helped acquire the original location of the Snohomish Co. Museum, situated near the Legion Park Golf Course in northern Everett. Grandma was a kind woman, who always had a smile on her face. I never can recall a time when she was cross or angry. Even though the relationship my grandparents had was unorthodox, they were happy. Grandma taught me a great many things, but perhaps the greatest gift she bestowed upon me was the knowledge that the only thing that would prevent me from achieving whatever I desired was myself. There was nothing I could not do if I truly had the desire! She taught me how to sew, and helped me make my first dress when I was ten years old. I remember the countless hours spent ripping out my errors. I was never allowed to settle for anything less than perfect. This may seem harsh, but it was in reality a valuable lesson. Anything worth doing was worth doing our very best! The result has been to instill in me a sense of confidence and a belief in myself that comes from within.