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The Simpsons 


Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania 


Of Philadelphia 


Press of Allen, Lane & Scott 




I OFFER this story of the Simpson Family 
to my ancestors as a slight token of grati- 
tude for the heritage of a healthy body and 
hardy soul which have enabled me to breast 
the storms and gather the sunshine of seventy 
years. I have followed their trail from the 
waters of Chesapeake Bay to the Forks of 
the Ohio, and their history from the reign of 
King James to the Presidency of Theodore 

Among those who have kindly facilitated 
my investigations, I make grateful acknowl- 
edgment to 'Col. Thomas Kennedy, President 
of Ciunberland Valley Railroad ; Mr. George 
W. Boyd, General Passenger Agent Pennsyl- 
vania Railroad ; Col. Frank N. Barksdale, for 
information of the old National Road, &c. ; 
Mr. Jordan, Historical Society of Pennsyl- 
vania ; the Curator of Historical Society, York, 
Pa. ; Cotmcillor George Calvart Lewis, of Pitts- 
burgh; Mrs. T. J. Nill, of Green Castle, Pa.; 
and Miss Martha Clark, of Lancaster, Pa., for 
valuable assistance. 

Elizabeth Simpson Bladen. 

708 South Tenth Street, 



Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania 

When Charles the Second was re- 
stored to the throne of England, 1662, 
he proclaimed a general amnesty to 
the various sectaries and adherents of 
the late Protector, Oliver Cromwell, 
but with the astute diplomacy char- 
acteristic of the "Merry Monarch," the 
provisions of this amnesty were de- 
layed for two years. Eminent oppo- 
nents were beguiled to London only 
to find that the "amnesty" was 
merely symbolic; many were indicted 
for treason and had their heads cut 
off. Notably among these was the 
Duke of Argyle, whose son had been 


received graciously i)y the King and 
had persuaded his father to trust to 
his Majesty's clemency. 

This summary vengeance on so 
shining a mark greatly impressed the 
old Cromwell ian soldiers. One of 
these, John Simpson, who had done 
gallant service for Cromwell, turned 
all his property into gold and came 
to the New \\\)rld with a thousand 
pounds in his saddlebags. He land- 
ed at New York, bought him a horse, 
and rode to Albany, subsequently 
prospecting through the Genessee 
countr)^ with a view to buying a new 
estate. From this he was deterred by 
the severity of the climate and the 
sight of numbers of refugees who 
could find no means of earning their 
bread. So he retraced his steps and 
finally made his way to Maryland, 
where he purchased a tract under the 


charters of Lord Baltimore, in the 
northwestern portion of the State, 
which later was, under the survey of 
English Commission, Mason and Dix- 
on, assigned to the Province of Penn- 
sylvania. The milestones set up by 
Mason and Dixon in the reign of 
Queen Anne, marked with a royal 
crown, are still in good condition in 
Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on the 
border of the two States. At the 
time of the erection of these stones 
the present county, known as Frank- 
lin, was included in Lancaster. 

John Simpson is referred to in 
genealogical and historical works as 
" Indian trader," though he cultivat- 
ed a great farm and had many slaves 
and servants. In point of fact, all 
early settlers traded with the Indians 
for the lands they held, as this second 
payment was security for peace. No 


doubt they also bought furs and 
game, but they were in no way less 
than the lords of the manor, over 
which they held sway. Of this par- 
ticular John Simpson it is said that 
he had been a colonel in Cromwell's 
army, but he sank his military title 
for obvious reasons, and carried out 
through life his Presbyterian conscien- 
tiousness. He never allowed a dish 
to be washed in his house nor a bed 
to be made on Sunday ; feeding the 
stock was the only work he permitted 
to be done. Tradition asserts that 
all his children, grandchildren, and 
servants were well instructed in the 
Lari/er and the Shorter Catechisms, 
with such excellent results that it is 
rare to find any one of the name of 
Simpson in the State of Pennsylvania 
who is not a Presbyterian. 

His orthodoxy even affected the 


animals on his estate, as it was the 
habit of his house dogs to follow him 
to preaching, when there was any 
within ten miles, and an aged horse 
named " Nasby," though no longer 
ridden, would amble slowly after the 
family cortege and reach the meeting 
house in time for the second service. 
This old Cromwellian soldier lived to 
a great age and left behind him sons 
and daughters, some of whom ex- 
tended their possessions up toward 
the first gap in the Alleghanies, near 
Winchester, Va., while the main stem 
pushed down through the Cumberland 
Valley, locating on fertile farms, 
being much given to horse and stock 
breeding, and 

"Gathering gear by every means that's justified 
by honor, 
Not for the purpose of display nor for a gay 

But for the glorious privilege of being inde- 


A grandson of the orii^inal John 
Simpson, also John Simpson, is the 
next to appear in history. At the age 
of eii^hteen he accompanied George 
Washington, in October, 1753, when 
Washington was sent by Governor 
Robert Denwiddie to M. De St. 
Pierre, commander of the French at 
the Forks of the Ohio, with a letter 
of remonstrance. On receipt of an 
answer to that letter preparations for 
war were recommenced and a fort 
at the Forks of Ohio begun. This 
was captured by the French and fin- 
ished by them. It was named Fort 
Duquesne, after the then Governor of 
Canada. Washington at that time 
was only nineteen years of age and 
young Simpson eighteen. They were 
surveyors, and both thoroughly fa- 
miliar with the route. 

History frivoles a good deal over 


this seemingly juvenile exploit. One 
writer says, "The Marquis Duquesne 
told them to run home to their 
mothers," but in point of fact the 
Marquis was in Canada. Washing- 
ton's commission is on record, and 
in his own diary he relates how they 
spent the night with Queen Alliquip- 
pa and her brother, "The Half 
King," at their camp, seven or eight 
miles above the fort, and that the 
Indians got royally drunk. John 
Simpson trod the light fantastic toe 
with Queen Alliquippa. This camp 
was always known as Alliquippa, be- 
ing subsequently the country seat of 
the late Judge Wilson McCandlass. 
After his death it was purchased by 
the Pennsylvania Railroad, being lo- 
cated directly on the banks of the 
Allegheny River. I have played there 
as a child with Judge McCandlass' 


children, Mar)- and Stephen, but little 
dreamed at that time that one of my 
own ancestors had made merry in the 
same locality two centuries earlier. 

Considering the vast area of the 
great Middle States, one wonders 
how two boys living so far apart 
could come so close together, but 
valleys and mountains considerably 
limit the distance. Though the trav- 
eler passes through four different 
States to go by way of the Cum- 
berland Valley Railroad from Green 
Castle to \Vinchesk:r, the time con- 
sumed is but four hours. In the city 
of Winchester is the Indian spring 
where Lord Fairfax kept his Indians, 
and right through the Allegheny 
Mountains is the gap which opened 
the trail to the West. In the Shen- 
andoah Valley two of young Simp- 
son's aunts were settled with their 


husbands, and the probabilities are 
young Simpson visited them often; 
hence, probably, the early friendship 
and association of boyhood and youth 
with the Father of his Country. 

This John Simpson was one of 
eight brothers. His father, Thomas 
Simpson, had settled in Paxtang 
Township, near Harrisburg, with his 
mother, Sarah, and sister, Rebecca. 
John was one of the executors of his 
father's will, probated 21st of March, 
1761. He built his homestead in 
Cumberland County, and was known 
as the Master of Rye Top. He was 
also known as General Simpson, whose 
house General Washington often vis- 
ited. When the British landed at the 
Head of Elk, this John Simpson took 
his sons and his slaves and marched 
down to aid the Americans, leaving 
his harvests in the field. These were 


saved by his women servants and la- 
borers, under the direction of his wife, 
Mart^aret Murray, whom he had mar- 
ried in 1 76 1. With him on both of 
these expeditions were one of his 
young sons, also John Simpson, who 
joined the company of Capt. James 
Murray and fought at the battles of 
Trenton and Princeton. 

While General Washington lay with 
his starving soldiers at Valley Forge, 
John Simpson, the father, again took 
his musket, and with his friends and 
neighbors marched out to protect the 
convoy of food sent by patriotic friends 
in Maryland, and got it safely to 
the camp. 

When he died his household fur- 
niture and live stock required two 
weeks for the vendue. Among his 
children surviving were Dr. John 
Simpson, who developed Shippensburg 


(see Archives), Robert Simpson, who 
established the first glass industry in 
the city of Pittsburgh, Mary Simpson, 
who married Mr. Holmes, Hannah, 
wife of Mr. Cassatt, Lydia, who mar- 
ried also a Mr. Cassatt, and Isabella, 
the wife of Mr. McDonald, all men of 
old families and great prominence in 
the State of Pennsylvania. The grand- 
father of Mr. Cassatt was a French Hu- 
guenot. He was elected a member of 
the First Colonial Assembly, a gentle- 
man of wide learning and culture. 

This John Simpson, popularly 
known as General, is still often re- 
ferred to in the local journals of the 
Cumberland Valley in connection with 
sturdy opposition to Indian encroach- 
ment ; always ready to take the field 
as a volunteer when an armed force 
was sent to rescue captives or protect 
the frontier. He was the brother of 


Michael Simpson, who marched with 
Arnold to Ouebec. This Michael was 
a man for posterity. He endowed a 
churchyard near Harrisburg known as 
the " Paxtang Churchyard, " and there 
a great many of his kindred lie buried. 
He started the fcrr)^ known as Simp- 
son's, below Harrisburg, securing from 
the State riparian rights ; belonged to 
various societies ; married twice, had 
many children, and left an estate worth 
only $2000 when he died. This prob- 
ably did not include the realty, and 
the records of various county court 
houses show numerous tracts at one 
time owned by him. His descendants 
moved to Huntingdon, Bellefonte, and 
more northern counties. 

The distribution of estates in early 
days in the Cumberland \'alley was 
peculiar; often the children got their 
portion when they married and set 


out for themselves. Thus it was cus- 
tomary for the father to build for 
his eldest son a house and barn ex- 
actly like his own, with its due com- 
plement of land, and it came to pass 
that the youngest son frequently 
inherited the homestead. Many of 
these old homesteads, or, as they are 
called, ** mansion houses," still re- 
main, the stability of their construction 
having defied the storms of more than 
two hundred years. A marked char- 
acteristic is the plain solidity of the 
external stone walls in contrast to the 
interior decorations. Often the man- 
tel pieces, door frames, and window 
frames are beautifully and elaborately 
carved. These houses are rather long- 
er than broad ; upper windows are 
more numerous than those in the 
lower stories, and a detriment to 
architectural effect is the unimposing 


porches which have been added to the 
original edifice. These are doubtless 
innovations of more modern days. 

To return to John Simpson, Master 
of Rye Top, whose descendants carry 
on the straight line from the Crom- 
wellian soldier though the collateral 
branches are numerous and wide- 
spread. His son Robert settled in 
Pittsburgh, where he built the first 
glass works and died a bachelor. His 
son John studied medicine and began 
practice in Maryland, where he mar- 
ried lilizabeth lidward Durban Will- 
iam Andrews, who was only fifteen 
years old and a great heiress, having 
inherited two plantations and a thou- 
sand slaves. The young couple im- 
mediately set free all their slaves, but 
as they resided in Baltimore, so many 
of the slaves followetl them that they 
found it necessary to buy a farm to 


maintain their dependents. Dr. John 
Simpson purchased a valuable wheat 
land tract, still known as "The Head 
of the Spring," in the town of Ship- 
pensburg, where he also bought a 
city lot and built him a residence. 
Dr. John Simpson lived in Shippens- 
burg until his death, having done 
much to develop its prosperity. He 
also put money in his saddlebags and 
traveled to the State of Kentucky, 
where he bought ten thousand acres 
of land in Greene County, which re- 
mained in the family until two years 
before the Civil War, when it was 
sold for $10,000. A few years later it 
would have been worth a hundred 
thousand. The Head of the Spring 
remained in the ownership of Dr. 
John Simpson until his death, and 
was held by his eldest son. Dr. Will- 
iam Andrews Simpson, until the writer 


of this article was eighteen years of 
age, when it was sold for $10,000. It 
is noticeable amid the vagaries of 
real estate that this beautiful farm 
has since then been sold for a much 
smaller amount. 

Dr. John Simpson left four sons 
and four daui/hters. The sons were 
William, Edward, David, and Robert. 
Dr. William Simpson married Mary 
Theresa de Beelen, and left one child, 
Elizabeth Simpson, who married Ben- 
jamin Rush, of Philadelphia, of whose 
two daughters only one survives, Mrs. 
William Camac. 

Edward Simpson settled in Pitts- 
burgh, where he became an eminent 
member of the bar and a law partner 
of Edwin M. Stanton, President Lin- 
coln's able Secretary of War. 

David settled in New Orleans, 
where he also died a bachelor. 


Dr. Robert Simpson was a physi- 
cian of great repute, but never mar- 
ried. Mary Holmes, Dr. Simpson's 
second daughter, at the age of seven- 
teen married Cornelius Darragh, one 
of the most remarkable members of 
the Pittsburgh bar. He was just 
twenty-one when he was elected to 
the State Legislature, and before he 
was twenty-three, two years later, to 
the State Senate, which he left to go 
to Congress for two terms; was then 
United States District Attorney, and 
subsequently Attorney-General of the 
State of Pennsylvania. At that time 
the Attorney-General had the appoint- 
ment of his whole three hundred 
deputies. His children married: Mar- 
garet, Dr. Julian Rogers, of Pitts- 
burgh, and Elizabeth, Washington L. 
Bladen, of Philadelphia. 

Isabella Simpson married Gen. 


William Hoffman, of the United States 
Army. They left one dauj^hter, who 
is the wife of Major-General Kobbee, 
of the United States Army. The 
third daughter, Louisa, survived the 
whole family. In addition to her 
own means, she inherited the es- 
tates of her brothers, and lived with 
a degree of style and elegance at 
that time unusual in the city of Pitts- 
burgh, driving out daily with colored 
coachman and footman in livery, and 
her dog seated by her side. Often 
she drove herself, and ever)^ day she 
took a gallop on her horse "Rocket," 
attended by her groom. She was a 
splendid horsewoman, had traveled 
widely, and was a most agreeable 
conversationalist. In herself she con- 
centrated all the traditions of the 
Simpson Cromwellian soldier. Her 
dog "Cora" accompanied her to the 


First Presbyterian Church every Sun- 
day and sat in her pew beside her. 
She had five dogs, to each of whom 
she left a weekly income. She also 
pensioned her colored servants and 
bequeathed $5000 to her cook, Hettie 
Jackson, descendant of a slave of the 
same name, and provided for her sis- 
ters' children and grandchildren. She 
endowed four lots in the Allegheny 
Cemetery for the interment of the 
deceased members of her family. 
Never was there a woman so strong 
in her principles, love of family, and 
her native State. A characteristic an- 
ecdote told of her relates how, when 
a fashionable woman was expatiating 
on the marriage of a pretty girl. Miss 
Louisa said: — 

"How ridiculous to make such an 
ado about a girl whose father was 
only an old Irishman!" 


The lady replying: "Well, most of 
us arc descended from some old Irish- 
man or Dutchman." 

••Not all, thank God!" retorted 
Miss Simpson. *Tf you want to see 
one, look at me, the sixth generation 
of native-born Pennsylvanian. There 
is a man still living who was at the 
vendue of my grandfather, John Simp- 
son, which it took two weeks to 
dispose of his stables and household 

In early life she was engaged to 
an officer in the United States Army, 
but discarded him when, on the ap- 
proach of the Civil War, he took sides 
with the South. Her brother. Dr. 
Robert Simpson, having at his own 
expense raised and equipped a com- 
pany, Miss Louisa devoted herself in 
providing for the comfort of the en- 
listed men ; and when this company 


was cut to pieces at Pittsburgh Land- 
ing, she took upon herself the work of 
sympathy and solace to their families. 

Yet the writer of this article re- 
members when a child how this wo- 
man of heroic mold used to wander 
in the woods and play with her, tak- 
ing acorns for tea cups, and crimson 
maple leaves for dishes, embroider- 
ing with delicious fancy those magic 
hours. In her will she forbade any 
of her household furniture or personal 
possessions being sold, leaving them 
to be divided between three nieces. 
The share of one niece of personal 
clothing amounted to twelve trunks 
full of apparel. 

Hannah Cassatt, the youngest 
daughter, married Colonel Card, of 
the United States Army. 

Of the daughters of Gen. John 
Simpson, of Rye Top, the eldest 


married Mr. Holmes, of Baltimore. 
They left one son, Robert Holmes, 
who moved to St. Louis, married 
there, but died without issue. 

Hannah married David Cassatt, of 
York, Pa. One of their daughters 
married Mr. Coleman. She left four 
daughters and two sons. The second 
daughter married Mr. Samuel Small, 
the millionaire of York. They left no 

Lydia, the beauty of the family, 
married also a Mr. Cassatt. They had 
two children, Robert Cassatt, who 
married Miss Johnston, and Mary, 
who married Dr. Gardiner, who was 
not only a physician, but also a 
wealthy owner of mines and 'mills. 

Isabella, Gen. John Simpson's 
youngest daughter, married Mr. Mc- 
Donald, a successful lawyer of early 
days in Pittsburgh. She had no chil- 


dren, but her stepdaughter Martha 
married a Mr. Smith, and their son 
married a Miss Gardner, a niece of 
Isabella S. McDonald. 

The object of this paper is to trace 
distinctly the direct descendants of 
John Simpson, known as the General, 
and through him back to the Crom- 
wellian soldier, for which reason it 
has been necessary to throw out all 
the collateral branches. Many of 
these are distinguished and wealthy 
men and women, but their great num- 
ber of ramifications make the names 
too confusing for classification. There 
are the Culbertsons, who went as 
missionaries to China, where the 
daughters married great merchants in 

Of the great-grandchildren of Gen. 
John Simpson there are only five 
surviving. These are Alexander J. 


Cassatt. President of the Pennsyl- 
vania Railroad, Mar)^ Cassatt, the 
celebrated artist, J. Gardner Cassatt, 
Isabella S. Hoffman, wife of Major- 
General Kobbee, and Elizabeth Simp- 
son Bladen. The children of these are 
the great-great grandchildren of Gen- 
eral Simpson, of Rye Top. 

There are now living of the great- 
great-grandchildren of Gen. John 
Simpson, in the direct line from the 
Cromwellian soldier. Mrs. Mary D. 
Ritchie, widow of George Ritchie 
and sole sur\-iving child of Elizabeth 
Simpson Bladen, wife of Washington 
L. Bladen, Mrs. George Calvert Lewis, 
William Rush Rogers, childr«<n of Mrs. 
Julian Rogers, who was a daughter 
of Mar)^ Simpson and Cornelius Dar- 
ragh, the children of Mrs. Isabella Kob- 
bee, daughter of Isabella Simpson, 
wife of Gen. William Hoffman — names 


and number of these unknown — Mrs. 
William Camac, daughter of Elizabeth 
Simpson and Benjamin Rush. 

The children of Alexander J. Cassatt, 
two sons and two daughters, three chil- 
dren of J. Gardner Cassatt, a son and 
two daughters, children of Mrs. Smith, 
daughter of Mrs. Mary Gardiner, 
daughters of Lydia Simpson, daughter 
of Gen. John Simpson, of Rye Top. 

Robert Cassatt, Esq., married Miss 
Catharine Johnston, an heiress, and 
one of the most accomplished women 
of her time. The Cassatts were prom- 
inent men in Pennsylvania before the 
American Revolution. Their names 
will be found in the records of the 

Mrs. Margaret C. Rogers and Mrs. 
Elizabeth S. Bladen are daughters of 
the late Cornelius Darragh and Mary 
H. Simpson. Cornelius Darragh was 


one of the most prominent men in 
Western Pennsylvania. He served in 
the Assembly and in the Senate, was 
United States District Attorney and 
Attorney-General of Pennsylvania. 
His great-L^randfather was one of the 
early settlers, and his father served in 
the American Revolution. John Dar- 
ragh, Cornelius' father, was one of the 
first Burgesses of the city of Pittsburgh, 
1815. Cornelius Darragh's mother was 
Peggy Calhoun, and with her cousin. 
Gen. William Robinson, were the first 
white children born west of the Alle- 
gheny River. Gen. \\\ Robinson was 
the first President of the Pennsylvania 
Railroad. Cornelius Darragh secured 
from the Legislature the franchises of 
the extension of the IV' nn sylvan ia 
Railroad to Pittsburgh from Harris- 
burg. He also secured for the West- 
ern University a great tract of land 


from the State, which included the 
vast oil fields. He graduated from 
the Western University at the age of 
seventeen, studied law and was ad- 
mitted to practice, and elected to the 
State Assembly at twenty-one. He 
was a fine classical scholar and a 
man of infinite wit and humor. The 
writer of this article, his youngest 
daughter, had the benefit of his con- 
stant companionship from three years 
of age, and can only exclaim: "Oh, 
my father, I shall never see your 
magnificent mind and charming per- 
sonality again." 

The inciter to the writing of this 
paper on the Simpson family de- 
scended from the Cromwellian soldier 
was my maternal grandmother, Eliza- 
beth William Andrews Edward Dur- 
ban Simpson. All her silver was 
marked with four letters, and her 


two eldest sons were named William 
Andrews and Hdward Durban, trib- 
utes to her father and grandfather, 
who had left her great estates. 

Contrary to the usual fashion of 
wives, she was devoted to her hus- 
band's family and children, and nar- 
rated to me the outlines of their 
history. Late in life I verified these 
relations by visiting the old localities, 
inspecting court records, and decipher- 
ing tombstones. The characteristic 
of this family is that it can be traced 
in an unbroken line from the first 
founder in the State of Penns)lvania 
and that its main branch held its 
prominence and prosperity through 
seven generations. 

They were all horsemen, fond of 
land, and lived with unstinted hos- 
pitality. The oldest surviving great- 
grandchild is Elizabeth S. Bladen. 


The most distinguished survivor, 
Alexander J. Cassatt, a man whose 
reputation both in Europe and Amer- 
ica is only second to those personal 
qualities which attract the attachment 
and admiration of those who know 
him intimately. The brave heart and 
the open hand are his direct inherit- 
ance from the Cromwellian soldier. 

Alexander Johnston Cassatt, son of 
Robert Cassatt, son of Lydia Simpson 
and D Cassatt, who was a daugh- 
ter of John Simpson, Master of Rye 
Top, son of John Simpson, son of 
Thomas Simpson, son of John the 
Cromwellian soldier who settled in 
Maryland (later Pennsylvania by run- 
ning of survey) in 1664. 

Alexander Johnston Cassatt is the 
seventh generation of unbroken de- 
scent in the direct line from his Crom- 
wellian ancestor, authenticated by 


church records, tombstone inscriptions, 
court house register of wills and real 
estate transfers, and State papers from 
Winchester to Ilarrisbun^ throus/hout 
the counties, and from Philadelphia to 
Pittsburgh. Mr. Cassatt's children 
are : — 

Edward Buchanan Cassatt, married 
Miss Emily Phillips ; 

Katharine Kelso Cassatt Hutchinson 
(Dr. James P. Hutchinson), died April 
nth, 1905; 

Robert Kelso Cassatt (married Miss 
Minnie Fell) ; 

Elsie Foster Cassatt Stewart (Mr. 
W. P. Stewart, Baltimore), and three 
grandchildren, daughter of Edward 
Buchanan Cassatt, son of \V. P. Stew- 
art, named A. J. C. Stewart, and son 
of Robert Kelso Cassatt, also named 
after his grandfather, Alexander John- 
ston Cassatt. 

DFO \B m^^ 


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