Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rusks


This blog has, unintentionally, become the means for me to fill in gaps in my research.  When writing a post, my usual process goes something like this: (1) I choose a subject for my post, (2) I review the information I have on that subject, (3) I realize I don’t have as much information on the subject as I thought, (4) I do additional research on the subject, and (5) I compose the post.    This week’s post certainly fits this pattern. 
James Rusk is my fourth great grandfather (James Rusk – Jane Rusk – James Donaldson – David Donaldson – Eddie Earl Donaldson – my mom – me).  I thought I had sufficient information on him, since I had his Revolutionary War pension file and he had a famous grandson about whom much was written.  But, as usual, once I looked a little closer at my research I realized I didn’t have as much information as I thought.    I even made a mostly unproductive trip to the Main Branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to try to gather more information.  So, although I know I still have a lot more digging to do, here it goes!

I will begin by briefly mentioning James’ famous grandson, Jeremiah McLain “Uncle Jerry” Rusk.  Uncle Jerry , the son of James' son Daniel and his wife Jane Faulkner, was a congressman, governor of Wisconsin, and Secretary of Agriculture during the Benjamin Harrison administration.  Some of the information in this article is from Uncle Jerry: Life of General Jeremiah M. Rusk, Stage Driver, Farmer, Soldier, Legislator, Governor, Cabinet Officer by Henry Casson.  As a disclaimer, I must admit that I am more than a little skeptical of many of the 19th and early 20th century histories and biographies, so I will use information from this book sparingly. 
James Rusk was born in Ireland on March 15, 1754.  I don’t know the names of his parents or siblings.  James arrived in America prior to the Revolutionary War.  According to Uncle Jerry, James arrived at Baltimore and then was “sold in bondage,” as an indentured servant, to pay for his passage from Ireland to America.  Prior to the expiration of his indenture, on March 22, 1777, he enlisted as a private in Captain James Greer’s Company of the First Pennsylvania Regiment. 

During James’ service with the First Pennsylvania, the regiment was involved, in part or in full, in the battles of Brandywine, Paoli, Germantown, and White Marsh.  After spending the winter of 1777 – 1778 encamped at Valley Forge, some or all of regiment fought in the Battles of Monmouth and Stoney Point.  In January 1780, the First Pennsylvania joined other regiments in the Pennsylvania line in a mutiny at Morristown, New Jersey.   The troops were demoralized because of the poor conditions, poor food, and lack of pay.  The mutiny failed, but many troops were discharged.  According to James’ pension filed, he was discharged at Trenton, New Jersey in 1781.
Around 1781, James married Ann Robb, who was born in Maryland on January 31, 1760.  I also don’t know who Ann’s parents were.  James and Ann settled in Fallowfield Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania.   James appeared on the 1783, 1784, and 1793 Fallowfield Township tax lists.  He made his living as a farmer.  James and Ann were the parents of nine children, all of whom were born in Pennsylvania – John (born about 1782), Nancy (1784), Daniel (1786 –about 1845), Samuel  (1790), Sarah (1792), William (1795 – 1850), James (1797 – 1863), Margaret (1801), and Jane (1804).

Some time between Jane’s birth in 1804 and his application for a Revolutionary War pension in 1818, the Rusk family moved to Clayton Township in Perry County, Ohio.  In 1820, the Rusk household was comprised of James, Ann, and their daughter Margaret.   In James’ pension file, Ann was described as “feeble” and unable to perform housework.   Because Margaret was his adult daughter, he stated that he was obligated to pay her. 
At that point, James’ property consisted of 100 acres of ”3rd rate land” and 40 acres of cleared land.  They had a three year old colt, two cows and one heifer, two yearling calves, and eight sheep.  As far as household goods, they owned a regular pot, a small pot, a Dutch oven, knives, forks, spoons, pewter plates and dishes, a desk, and four chairs.  James also owned a handsaw, two augers, and a mattock (a tool similar to a pick axe).

By 1823, James claimed that he had given much of his property to Margaret as compensation for caring for her parents.  He sold 100 acres of land to his son, William in 1821 or 1822 in exchange for paying off his debst and paying an annuity to James and Ann for their lifetimes.  The annuity consisted of 30 bushels of wheat, 20 bushels of rye, 20 bushels of oats, and 60 bushels of corn.  The survivor would collect half of the annuity after the death of the spouse.  In 1823, James still owned a horse, a cow, a calf and some household goods and furnishings.
Ann died in Clayton Township on August 26, 1838.  James died July 1, 1839.  They are buried in the Unity Presbyterian Cemetery in Somerset, Perry County, Ohio.

On May 29, 1844, the Rusks’ loyal daughter, Margaret, went from the frying pan into the fire.  She married William McKittrick, a Morgan County, Ohio widower with several children.  After William’s death, Margaret lived with my twice-widowed third great grandmother, Jane Rusk Donaldson Greer in Morgan County, Ohio.

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