James Steel Family

http://books.google.com/books?id=BhnyrBwW0-IC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=true p.52-73.

Dr. Walanne P. Steele

Familia 1996: Ulster Geneological Review: Number 12, Issue 1996


by Dr. Walanne P. Steele

Gregor von Rezzori, the Austrian writer who was raised in Bukovina when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian writes, in his autobiographical novel The Snows of Yesteryear, ‘Our lives were lived by our times.’ By tracing the lives of one branch of the James Steel family (Appendix 1) who emigrated from Co. Monaghan to Westmoreland County in western Pennsylvania I hope to show how the Steels were and are products of the historical and political currents of the times and the locations in which they lived.

Old Castle Blayney

It is believed that they descended from George Steel who settled in Co. Cavan in 1627 as one of Lord Claneboy’s tenants in the Parish of Clouke, Cornelyon. The life of James Steel, like George’s before him, was an example of a life influenced by historical events. He left the north of Ireland because of the unfavorable climate involving both the English and the Irish. James was born in the town of Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan, in the province of Ulster in 1741. He had two brothers, John and William, and they lived in a stone manse opposite the Presbyterian Church. He migrated to America in 1771 at a time when economic circumstances at home resulted in some 10,000 people per year making the trans-Atlantic crossing in the period immediately prior to the outbreak of the American War of Independence.

Steelboys Storming Belfast Barracks

The James Steel files in the DAR Library in Washington stated that local insurrections put him in a perilous position and forced him to emigrate, clearly a reference to the agrarian disturbances of the early 1770s which were led, ironically, by the disaffected ‘Hearts of Steel’ movement whose grievances included high rents and additional taxes.

Accordingly he set sail for America and landed in Philadelphia, PA and settled shortly thereafter on the eastern side of the Cumberland Mountains in that region which is now Franklin County, PA. He was drawn to his place by the fact that many of his fellow-countrymen were already living there, a very considerable Celtic settlement having been founded there some years before and consisting largely of Scotch and Irish.

Rev. Steel’s Fort

<p.53> Perhaps he was related to Reverend John Steel, an ordained Presbyterian minister from the Londonderry Presbytery, who was already living in Pennsylvania. In 1755 he was already serving a congregation near Mercersburg at a place called ‘Mr. Steel’s Meeting House’. The Scotch Irish families in the area who were unable to get Colonial government protection against Indian attacks built forts of their own, one of which was known as ‘The Fort at Mr. Steel’s Meeting House’. Rev. John Steel became known as ‘The Fighting Parson of Upper Conochocheague’ (Mercersburg) during the Indian wars following Braddock’s defeat. He and his congregation had built a stockade around their meeting house which later became known as Steel’s Fort. In 1755 Indians attacked the settlers in Big Cove and Little Cove in Cumberland County. Those who escaped fled to Steel’s Fort. Rev Steel led the men of his congregation in pursuit of the Indians to avenge the murder of the Walker family at Rankin’s Mills. In 1756 Rev. Steel, who by now had become a Captain in the Pennsylvania Militia, petitioned governor Morris for assistance stating that ‘men and supplies were inadequate to defend the county and many families had left the community’. The same Rev. Steel became a chaplain in the Colonial Army under General Washington and in about 1782 was sent to western Pennsylvania by the Presbyterian Church to form a Presbytery on the banks of the Youghiogheny River to be known as the Redstone Presbytery. Most of the Steels of the earlier generations were staunch Presbyterians and, because of their difficulties in Ireland at the hands of the authorities, they quickly joined the Colonial forces in the American Revolution (as did many who had left Ulster in similar circumstances).

William Penn

It was into this community among relatives that James Steel came and stayed a while before seeking cheaper and less-crowded lands west of the Allegheny mountains. It was to this community that he came to find his second wife in 1784. The Quakers had taken up the fertile lands east of the Susquehanna River in the century following William Penn. German immigrants who came rapidly on the heels of the early Quakers settled in the fertile valleys to the north and west of Philadelphia. As a result, the Scotch Irish were forced to take up the more rugged land in the foothills of the mountains. James Steel rejected the hilly terrain and decided to make the long trek over the mountains to the valley lands of Westmoreland County, a county which then <p.54> embraced most of the western areas of Pennsylvania drained by the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. In 1772 he purchased about 400 acres of land (a large tract in those days) on Sewickley Creek in Mt. Pleasant township[2] about 6 miles northeast of Mt. Pleasant, PA. The land was purchased from the Penn heirs. The exact price is not known, but old records show that these western lands were first sold for about £5 per 100 acres, This farm was to become known as ‘Sewickley Manor'[3] and was the pioneer homestead of the Steels of Westmoreland County. The county at the time was part of Bedford County, but in 1772 the landowners petitioned the Colonial Assembly for a charter. Pennsylvania created Westmoreland County by charter 26 February, 1773 and established the first court house in the log cabin of Robert Hanna until a court house could be built. The cabin was situated on a farm near the present site of Hannastown a few miles east of Greensburg.

William Egle wrote in his Illustrated History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, published in 1918, about Hanna’s settlement.

Hanna’s Town from Blair Painting

“Hanna’s settlement was on the old Forbes road, about thirty miles east of Pittsburgh, and about three miles north-east of the present county town Greensburg. Robert Hanna, a north-country Irishman, had already opened up a public house here, and near him had soon been commenced a settlement, prosperous for those times. lf we except the region immediately contiguous to Fort Ligonier, and the region about the fork of the Ohio, the settlement about Hanna’s was at this date the most flourishing in the county. After the courts had been appointed here, the place was further dominated. It was the first collection of houses between Bedford and Pittsburgh dignified with the name of a town. It at no time contained more than perhaps thirty log cabins, built after the primitive fashion of those days, of one story and a cock-loft in height, with clap-board roofs, and a huge chimney at one end of each cabin.” (1153-1154)

During the early years of the Revolution, James Steel married Elizabeth McMasters who resided with her brother James McMasters near where the town of Hecla, PA is now located. He had two children by her, Jane and Joseph, After her death he married Elizabeth Donaldson in about 1784. She is said to have been his cousin – a sister of Robert and Andrew Donaldson of Franklin County, the community to which James Steel first came as an immigrant. By her he had three children, Elizabeth, James and John. It is the last son, John, whose descendants we will follow (Appendix 2).

<p.55> Early in the Revolution following the first bloodshed at Lexington, Massachusetts, the Westmoreland landowners formed a protesting and protective organization know as ‘Mount Pleasant Association’. James Steel was a member of this organization. Egle writes of the Westmorelanders’ entry into the American Revolution:

Revolutionary War Soldiers

“When the news of the first skirmish reached the wilderness west of the mountains, a thrill of sympathy went up from the people. On the 16th of May, four weeks after Lexington, there were two meetings held in western Pennsylvania, and both of them within the virtual limits of Westmoreland. One of these meetings was held at Pittsburgh, the other at Hannastown.” (1155)

A resolution was drawn up and sent to the colonial Government protesting the acts of the Crown at Lexington, asking for redress, proclaiming their allegiance if the offenses were not corrected and establishing a sort of ‘Home Guard’ under the command of Col. John Carnahan.

Revolutionary War militia soldier.

There were 36 privates listed in this ‘militia’, most of whom were later to become privates in the 2nd Pennsylvania Battalion commanded by Col. James Stewart under whom he served until July 1778 when the command was transferred to Lt. Col. Murray upon the consolidation of the 2nd Pennsylvania and the 13th Pennsylvania. The 2nd Battalion saw extensive action in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, suffering heavy losses at the Battle of Brandywine and Germantown. Two of his brothers-in-laws Robert and Andrew Donaldson, were killed in battle.

Egle writes further of the difficulties of the Scotch Irish in Westmoreland County during the years of the Revolution.

“As the Revolution continued, their troubles instead of having abatement, increased. During 1778 and 1779, Ligonier Valley suffered, perhaps, more than any other portion, the rivers by this time presented a barrier of armed posts from the Kittanning to Brownsville; but Fort Ligonier was the only place of refuge for the people of the valley, who had in spite of war and privation, increased in population. The valley derives its name from the fort. It lies between Laurel Hill on the east and the Chestnut Ridge on the west, and extends from the waters of the Yough to the Conemaugh. It is well watered with noble streams, and is now a thrifty and populous region. It was then infested with beasts of prey and overrun by savages. It was marked north and south by the Indian trails of the Six Nations. For the Indians who at this day scalped for bounty, it was a desirable hunting ground. Those on their predatory war trips, would dash upon the settler in the field, the woman <p.56> at the cabin, the child at the spring; and after securing the booty either in prisoners or in tufts of bloody hair, would skulk into the deep forests, evading pursuit.” (1157)

Sewickley Manor, Westmoreland County, PA(3)

After the war, James returned home to his farm at Sewickley Manor and he married twice and had five children. His last child, John, was the progenitor of the branch of the family that the paper will follow in detail. James Steel died in September 1823.

John Steel, the fifth child of James Steel, became known as ‘Hannastown’ John Steel. He married his cousin, Martha Walker of Virginia (now West Virginia) near Steubenville. She was the daughter of Andrew and Sallie Donaldson Walker. They had four children. Martha died in 1842 and John remarried Mary Boyer and had five more children.

Hanna’s Town

After the death of his pioneer father, John Steel purchased the Sewickley Manor farm from the heirs and lived there until 1835[2]. In 1826 he purchased the 300-acre Robert Hanna Farm. The first court house in Westmoreland County was located on the Hanna farm in 1772 and this became Hannastown, Pennsylvania. Hannastown John Steel died in May 1860. At his death, the old farm which his father bought from the Penn heirs was willed to his son, Joseph Walker Steel. The Hannastown farm was willed to his youngest son William. The Sewickley farm and the Hanna farm remained in the family until recently. ln 1973 the Hanna farm was made into a historical site.

The first child of Hannastown John Steel and his second wife Mary Boyer also named John is the third generation of the Steels in America in the line which the paper follows. This John Steel, the grandson of James, married Susanna Geiger.

St. Vincent College, 1831.

Susanna Geiger me from an equally remarkable family. The grandfather of Susanna Geiger Steel also served in the Revolution. George Geiger was born in Lancaster County, son of George Geiger who arrived from Germany in 1749 on the ship Fran. He settled in Lancaster County. We believe him to be the father of George Geiger the soldier. In April 1777 he was listed as a 1st Lieutenant in the 13th Pennsylvania Colonial Battalion of the Lancaster County Militia and served under Captain Henry Custer. The militia was later mustered into the Pennsylvania Line of the Colonial Army under General George Washington. In 1800 George Geiger, along with his wife Anna Marie (Weimer) Geiger, whom he had married in 1772, went ‘west’ (to <p.57> western Pennsylvania) to buy a farm. They stopped overnight at a farm-inn some 32 miles east of Pittsburgh. They liked the location and after a few days bought a farm consisting of 275 acres, paying cash for it. This land is located in Unity Township, Westmoreland County and is now the site of St. Vincent’s College on the eastern acres and St. Xavier School for Girls on the west side, near Latrobe, PA. [see blog post on Early American Exceptionalism.]

Sportsmans Hall

John Steel, fifth son of ‘Hannastown’ John Steel, married Susanna Geiger and set up housekeeping on the farm of her grandfather. The old farm house was once an Inn on the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Pike, about a day’s journey by stagecoach from Pittsburgh. Remnants of the house still stand on U.S. Route 30 near Latrobe, a forlorn relic of a bygone day when the rich rolling acres of this farm produced grain and hay for the teamsters of the ‘Conestoga’ wagons which passed that way on their way to the ‘West’ or on their return to civilization of the east for supplies. Cattle drivers stopped here to feed and water their animals as they slowly made their way to market. Travellers to the east went by ‘Stage’ and the Inn at Steels’ was just any easy day’s drive from Pittsburgh. The fertile acres of rolling countryside produced feed for the horses and substantial food for the travellers, along with lodging in a country inn that looked eastward to the seven ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, a formidable barrier to the coachmen. In these surroundings John and Susanna Steel reared twelve children, the seventh of whom was named John Bennington Steel (Appendix 3). The family was active in the work of the Presbyterian Church in Latrobe where John Steel was an Elder.

Howard, a grandson of John and Susanna, wrote the following memoir:

“Perhaps the most vivid memory of Grandma Steel and the old homestead is that of the family reunion in the summer of 1905. Mother and Dad dressed us in our ‘Sunday Best’, lead us into a two seated carriage with a fringe around the top, pulled by two fast stepping black horses and drove ‘over home’ as Dad called it. At that age, one does not know his relatives very well, but we did chase thru the house and around the lawn with our little cousins, drank lemonade, ate fried chicken and potato salad, finishing with the usual cake and custards. A photographer was present and lined us up on the front porch and steps to take our picture. He set up the camera on a tripod, covering his head with a black cloth, then held up his hand and told us children <p.58> in the front row to ‘watch for the birdie’.”

John Bennington Steele was born at the old homestead near Latrobe on 21 August, 1857. He was part of the fourth generation to succeed James. He was only eleven years old when his father died and the responsibility of the farm home fell upon his mother and her boys. In his early years, he attended the country school near the farm known as ‘Boyds’, a school which all of his children except the last attended for some part of their education. He married Elizabeth Rebecca Myers of Ligonier on February 28, 1884. They settled on a farm adjacent to the old homestead where all eleven of their children were born (Appendix 4), John Bennington Steele was the first to add the ‘e’ to the Family name.

John Bennington Steele’s mother was of Dutch descent and his wife Elizabeth was of Pennsylvania German descent. The Scotch Irish Steels intermarried with immigrants of other ethnicity. The Pennsylvania Germans played a leading role in the genetic development of the family. The German forebears, like the Scotch Irish, had come to Pennsylvania to avoid difficult circumstances in their own countries.

Karl Ludwig, 1657

Karl Ludwig, 1657

The Palatinate was the largest province in Germany in the seventeenth century. It spread over south Germany on both sides of the Rhine with Heidelberg as its capital. The Thirty Years War which ended in 1648 left the Palatinate in a state of shambles. Workers were sorely needed to reclaim and cultivate the fertile land. The ruler, Elector Karl Ludwig, in 1664 permitted Mennonite and Quaker refugees from Switzerland to come to the Palatinate, but many religious restrictions were imposed on the immigrants and they were never given the right of citizenship.

William Penn’s promises of a haven in America to the downtrodden, war-weary, persecuted religious sects of Germany, especially in the Palatinate, opened a flood gate of emigrants to Pennsylvania. The first Mennonites arrived in 1683 and settled north of Philadelphia in what is now Germantown. The Mennonite refugees from Switzerland to the Palatinate made that province only a temporary stopping place until they could cross the Atlantic to the land of religious freedom. In early 1717 the ministers of the Mennonite congregations in Rotterdam stated that 300 Mennonites had arrived in that city in route to America. A majority of them were natives of Switzerland, many had been born in the Palatinate of Swiss forebears who were refugees. They brought <p.59> with them to Pennsylvania the German language. Naturally they sought to find other settlers from their ‘home’ country when they arrived, thus bringing about small communities of friends and relatives. Later arrivals found lands near the port of entry at Philadelphia already taken, so that they had to move further north or west. They sought land along he river valley as far west as the Susquehanna River and north along the Delaware River to what is now Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Among the Mennonite and German religious sects that came to Pennsylvania are several of the forebears of the Steele and Meyers families.

Elizabeth Rebecca Myers, wife of John Bennington Steele, was born in 1863 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. The Myers family migrated to the Penn Colony in the early 1700’s. The Myer family name is sometimes spelled Meyer or Moyer.

Ship like the Pennsylvania Merchant

Ship like the Pennsylvania Merchant

Among the Meyer immigrants to Lancaster County is Hans Moyer who came from the Palatinate, landing at Philadelphia on 11 September, 1732 on the ship Pennsylvania Merchant. He acquired 500 acres in what is now Earl Township, Lancaster County, for which he received a ‘patent’ or clear title in 1735. He was survived by at least two sons, John and Christian, between whom he divided his 500-acre farm equally. Christian Meyer had three sons, one of whom was named Jacob. Jacob Meyer, the father of Jacob and Christian Meyer, who migrated from Lancaster County to Somerset County in about 1805. The latter brother Christian was Elizabeth Rebecca Myer’s paternal grandfather whose descendants we shall later expand upon (Appendix 6). His coming to Somerset County can be largely attributed to historic events in his home country.

Fort Stanwix Treaty Map, 1768

Fort Stanwix Treaty Map, 1768

In 1768, the Penn grandsons who governed the colony entered into a treaty with the Indian tribes of western Pennsylvania known as the Fort Stanwix Treaty, by which the Indians gave up their rights to all the western lands including the mountains to the Ohio River land for a sum of £10,000. The Penn heirs advertised this land for sale on 23 February, 1769 through their Philadelphia Land Company. On 3 February, 1768, just previous to the advertisement, the governor had passed a law to evacuate all squatter settlers on the lands west of the Allegheny ridge. Many squatters had settled on the rich valley lands adjacent to the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers, especially the ‘Turkeyfoot’ area at the confluence of the Casselman River, the <p.60> Laurel Creek and the Youghiogheny. An important trading post had been set up at the foot of the Chestnut Ridge near the present site of Uniontown, known as Christopher Gist’s Plantation. Governor Penn sent a Commission under the leadership of Rev. Steele, the fighting parson, to inform the squatters of the new law and to warn them off the land.

PA, Howell, 1792

PA, Howell, 1792

The German immigrants and their sons who had taken up much of the best land in Lancaster County looked favorably upon the new opportunities in the ‘west’ offered by the Penns. The price of £15 per 100 acres seemed fair, the Fort Stanwix Treaty foreshadowed relative peace with the Indians, and a new county was soon to be established at Fort Bedford in 1771, with a chance that law and order and justice would prevail. In 1773 a further subdivision of Bedford County was made creating Westmoreland County with a seat of government in John Hanna’s tavern at Hanna’s Town, a settlement of some thirty log cabins and a stockade west of the Chestnut Ridge, The town was burned by the Indians in 1786 and the county seat moved to Greensburg.

The father of Jacob and Christian Meyer made a trip from Lancaster to the valley between the Allegheny and Laurel Ridges in 1785 and purchased a large tract of uncultivated land where the present town of Meyerstown is situated. Other German people likewise took up land in the new county and established a settlement called Berlin. Among these early settlers in the area was a brother of Daniel Boone who had established a grist mill and a blacksmith shop.

Somerset County, PA

Somerset County, PA

Christian Meyer’s father never settled on the lands which he had purchased in Somerset County. Not until about 1804 did his two sons move to Somerset County with their families. Jacob Meyer had married Barbara Yorty of Lancaster County. His brother, Christian, our maternal ancestor, was born in Lancaster County in about 1780. He married Barbara Beachley also of that county and moved with her to the land purchased by his father in about 1785. They were the parents of thirteen children, the tenth one being a son named Henry Meyer, a Steel ancestor.

In 1814 Christian Meyer and his family moved from their land in Somerset County to a new farm in the Ligonier Valley just about a mile northeast of the present town. His brother, Jacob, remained in the Somerset area and one of his sons, William, along with another <p.61> land owner, laid out the town of Meyersdale in 1844 on part of the original farm land. The family homestead was located on land now known as ‘Maple Manor’.

Another German immigrant, also a revolutionary soldier, figures in Elizabeth Rebecca’s heritage on her mother’s side, Charles Richard (Reichard) was born on 27 September, 1755 in Berks County, PA. and died 17 August, 1852 in Westmoreland County. It is believed that Charles was the son of Jacob Richard, who came to America 15 September, 1748 on the ship Two Brothers from Amsterdam. He married Elizabeth Stough who was born 27 October, 1757 and died 13 January, 1826. They had eight children. (Appendix 7). There are several spelling variations on the name Richard (Reichard).

Charles Richard was born in Berks County according to the statement made by himself in his application for pension for Revolutionary service. He followed the occupation of farming during his whole life and lived successively in Berks, Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin and Westmoreland Counties. The length of time he resided in each is not known nor are the dates of moving from one to the other. He resided in Berks County at the time of his marriage and during his service in the Revolutionary War. We find him living in Dauphin in 1790 at the time of the U.S. Census. Later he resided in Franklin County and lastly in Westmoreland.

Artillery Retreats from Long Island

Artillery Retreats from Long Island

His Revolutionary War record as it appears in Sons of the American Revolution Genealogies is as follows. Charles Reichard (name also spelled Richard, Reichart and Richart) enlisted 3 April, 1776 in Company of Capt. Henry Christ, Jr. in the Pennsylvania Rifles, also know as the Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot. The company was commanded by Col. Samuel Miles. He served in this organization one year and nine months, as a private and fifer, but had other officers, Capt. Robert Gray, being one. His total war service was two years and five months. He participated in the battles of Long Island, White Plains, Trenton Brandywine and Germantown. In the Genealogies, one writer states,

“After his marriage to Elizabeth Slough on April 22, 1774, he entered the Revolutionary Army and was with Washington at Long Island, White Plains, Trenton and Valley Forge. He crossed the Delaware with Washington Christmas Eve and aided in the capture of the Hessians on Christmas Day 1778, passed through the siege and horrors of Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. With a furlough in his pocket and a pair of new shoes in his knapsack, he lay dawn in sleep on the night of December 23, 1777 intending <p.62> to start home early the next morning, but during the night his shoes were stolen. Undaunted, he started home anyway and traveled fifty miles in his stockings, leaving bloody tracks to mark his route.”

Washington at Valley Forge

Washington at Valley Forge

The same battalion, but in a different company commanded by Capt, John Marshall, was one James Steel. We believe this to be James Steel, the pioneer forebear of the family on the paternal side, while the forebear on the maternal side fought with him in the same engagements.

The influence of Elizabeth Rebecca’s German background remained strong in her life. German was still spoken at home in her youth and many German expressions and mannerisms remained her until her death. German food filled her table. The family was devout Brethren or Dunkards. Her brother, Henry, became a well-known minister and her father was a rugged cattle grower.

Egle wrote in 1881 of the changes in Westmoreland County. ‘These places flourished when the turnpike and other highways were established, and were, up to the advent of canals and railroads, the centres of business and wealth.’ He continues, ‘But when the railroads offered a new method of transportation, new interests were already engaged in. These interests–lumber, bark, limestone, coal, coke, fire-clay, iron, have now for twenty years been developing in a constantly accelerating degree’ (1161).

John Bennington and his wife Elizabeth were the last generation to live the idyllic Pennsylvania country life, The changes that Pennsylvania was undergoing expanded the possibilities of the Steel family and led them to move beyond rural Pennsylvania, A TNT munitions plant was built near the farm. Coal became an important war product. John Bennington bought extra teams to haul coal and coke for government use and ‘teaming’ became a profitable source of income for him. The age of the automobile was at hand and when the war was over. John Bennington, or Jack as he was called, continued with his teaming and helped to build the Lincoln Highway, US Route 30 through Westmoreland County. The running of the farm fell to Lizzie and the children. When the children were leaving for college in 1921, Jack’s brother Jim came to help with the running of the farm and continued to live there even after Jack’s death on 1 August, 1922. Lizzie outlived him by nearly a quarter century and died on 24 March, 1947.


The generation that followed was affected by the changes brought about by the First World War. Higher education became more available and sought after: Several of the children attended college. John Floyd went to Washington and Jefferson, Edwin left college to enlist in 1917. John Floyd, the next in the family line I propose to trace, married Augusta Jarrett, a woman of Scotch Irish and Welsh descent who lived in a small western Pennsylvania town as he did.

CMU Campus

CMU Campus

John Floyd and Augusta had two children Jay and Barbara Lee (Appendix 5). The expanding steel industry in Pittsburgh as well as the developments following the Second World War were to influence their lives. Many Scotch Irish had worked in the steel mills in Pittsburgh as laborers, but the Steele’s never entered the steel business until they reached a position of management. Jay was born on February 17, 1917 and went to Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon, to study mechanical engineering. He first worked first at Jones and Laughlin Steel, then opened his own steel fabricating business PESCO, Inc, (Pittsburgh Engineering and Supply Company). He married Helen Marie Ford, a coded at Carnegie Tech. Helen had lineage similar to his own with German and British ancestry. Barbara Lee met her husband, a first generation Swede enlisted in the armed forces at a dance at her college Allegheny. Ragnar Swanson was stationed at a military base nearby. He had lived in Massachusetts before enlisting. The steel industry drew both Jay and Barbara Lee’s husband Ragnar to settle in Pittsburgh. Not only Jay and Ragnar, but Jay’s father-in-law, Harry Ford, all worked in the steel industry surrounding Pittsburgh.

Chase Manhattan Bank 1962 Logo

Chase Manhattan Bank 1962 Logo

Jay and Helen had four children, Jerry, Lee, Jaye Ellen and Kurt (Appendix 5). It was the thought of continuing in the steel business that led Jay’s eldest son Jerry to enter Lehigh University in eastem Pennsylvania at Bethlehem to pursue a study of mechanical engineering as his father had done. Perhaps sensing a shift in the times, Jerry gave up his engineering studies to major in business and finance. Although he took a position at Bethlehem Steel following his graduation, after gaining a Masters of Business Administration the following year, he decided to pursue a career in international finance and banking at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. The reaction of the Pittsburgh Steele’s was ‘why would you leave ‘the steel’?’ It proved to be a prudent choice as almost unnoticeably things were changing. <p.64> Within 20 years J&L Steel as well as Jay’s fabrication shop would return to grassy fields. Bethlehem Steel would produce its last batch of steel and become a rusty reminder of a thriving industrial Pennsylvania.

Jerry Steele

Jerry Steele

Steel had played yet another role in Jerry’s life. The jobs of the steel industry attracted different ethnic groups in the 1920s. It was his move to eastern Pennsylvania which led him to many a woman from an entirely different ethnic background.

In the late teens and 1920s after the First World War many Eastern Europeans emigrated to the Lehigh Valley because the events of the war had led to uncertain and difficult political circumstances in their homelands. The Hungarians and Ukrainians found jobs in the steel mills at Bethlehem and the Austrians at the Mack truck plant in Allentown. Jerry’s wife would descend from the new Eastern European immigrants who had come to Pennsylvania at the end of the First World War.

Jadrian and Sarah with their Veronica Steele!

Jadrian and Sarah with their Veronica B. Steele!

Jerry and his wife Walanne Padus have one son Jadrien Ford Steele (Appendix 5). They live in Europe as the result of the end of yet another war, the Cold War, and the subsequent globalization of business and finance. Their son, Jadrien Ford, however has not sought to follow in his father’s path and pursue a career in business. Rather he senses a new direction for his life. Alter graduation From Princeton University (like many Scotch Irish before him), he has gone west to California to study film directing and writing. Time will tell how this move fits into the historic changes of our time.

Although our lives and our successes are often viewed as the result of personal choices, a broad generational overview suggests that there are larger factors at work that limit and guide the choices. Robert Musil wrote in his seminal novel The Man Without Qualities:

But that is not how it really is; we are at the mercy of our condition. We travel in it day and night, doing whatever else we do, shaving, eating, making love, reading books, working at our jobs, as though these four walls around us are standing still; but the uncanny fact is that those walls are moving along without our noticing it, casting their rails ahead like long, groping twisted antennae, going we know not where. Beside, we would like to think of ourselves as having a hand in making our times what it is. (23)



1. Beers. Biographical Records of Central Pennsylvania.
2. Berry, J. The Richards Genealogy.
3. Black, George Frazer, Surnames of Scotland.
4. Blackburn, G. History of Bedford and Lancaster County.
5. Boucher. History of Westmoreland County.
6. Egle, William. Illustrated History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Schafer’s New Bible House, Allentown; 1881,
7. Hasler, G., Old Westmoreland.
8. Horsch, John. The Mennonites in Europe.
9. Klein, H.J., History of Lancaster County.
10. Klett, G. S., Scotch Irish in Pennsylvania.
11. Musil, Robert. The Man Without Qualities. translated by Sophie Wilkins. New York: Alfred A Knopf. 1995
12. Rezzori, Gregor von, The Snows of Yesteryear. London: Vantage Press, 1992.
13. Stevens, S.K. History of Pennsylvania.
14. Van Braght, Theilman J. Martyr’s Mirror.
15. Colonial and Revolutionary Families, Vol. 16,
16. Deed to Jacob Moyer, land in Somerset County, recorded in Westmoreland County, Vol. 4, p. 360.
17. Mennonite Historical Society Library, Lancaster, PA.
18. Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. 7.
19. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society, Vol. XLII.
20. Sons of the American Revolution Genealogies

The author expresses grateful thanks to Howard Bennington Steele and Howard Loucks Steele for their diligent research and notes on the Steele family.


History as Destiny in the James Steel Family
Appendix I

One line of the Steel(e) Family
Descended from the fifth son of James Steel

James Steel 1741[9-10-1823]            (Elizabeth Donaldson)
John Steel 1789-1860                          (Mary Boyer)
John Steel 1822-1863                          (Susanna Geiger)
John Bennington Steele 1857-1922   (Rebecca Myers)
John Floyd Steele 1887-1953             (Augusta Jarrett)
Jay Floyd Steele 1917-1973                (Helen Marie Ford)
Jerry Ford Steele 1945-                      (Walanne Padus)
Jadrien Ford Steele 1974-                   [Sarah Bagley]
[Veronica Steele 2010-]


History as Destiny in the James Steel Family

More Info:

  1. In 1796, James Steel (the immigrant) sold 192 acres to Abraham Leasure. The remaining parcel was about 208 acres, that his son, John Steel purchased from the heirs.
  2. Here is the wiki for Mount Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
  3. The present Sewickley Manor was built about 1852, and seven generations of Abraham Leasure’s descendants have farmed this land, also known as the Pollins Farmstead.
  4. Sarah Bagley Steele Facebook
  5. Jerry Steele
  6. Carnegie Mellon University Campus
  7. Dr. Walanne P. Steele, History as Destiny in the James Steel Family from County Monaghan to Westmoreland County, Familia 1996: Ulster Geneological Review: Number 12, Issue 1996, p52-73.

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16 Responses to James Steel Family

  1. Mark Hill says:

    This article states that Mary Boyer had five children with John Steel. It also (accurately) states that the youngest child was William Steel.

    Since William Steel was the father of Judge James Byers Steel, the family has been documented in Boucher’s ‘History of Westmoreland County, Pa : Volume 2’. Boucher states that all nine children were born to John Steel and Martha Walker. Mary Boyer never had children with John Steel, although she acted as step-mother.

    William Steel was born in Dec of 1833…some nine years before Martha Walker died.

  2. Mark Hill says:

    I incorrectly named the Judge. His actual name was ‘John Byers Steel’…not James Byers.

    I, myself, and descended from James Steel…son of James Steel from Ireland

  3. Donna Nichols says:

    I have had to untangle the John Steele’s a couple of times! I am a direct descendant of Rev. John Steele, the Presbyterian minister, who established Ft. Steele, His son, Capt. John Steele, fought in the Revolution.. But where I got really in trouble was finding my gg grandfather, Rev. William Steele, son of Capt. John Steele, and Agnes Moore. Seems that Rev. William Steele was in Texas by 1834..but I couldn’t find him. Turns out that somewhere along the line he became an Episcopal priest! I had called the Presbyterian church where he had settled and bought land, figuring they could help me out. Nope, they knew who he was and had me call the Episcopal Church there he founded….Turns out he established three Episcopal churches in East Texas..

    • jayhack2012 says:

      Fantastic! We are in Dallas, so Texas Steele’s are of interest. I just googled the name and 1834, and got some more info. I’ll probably do my next post on him. There is also an Alphonso Steele who was the last survivor of the Texas Revolution, and a Confederate Gen. William Steele, who later re-organized the Texas Rangers.

      • Donna Nichols says:

        You need to contact Aaron Steele in Dallas; he is Rev. William Steele’s gggg grandson. He is in his mid-20’s. I do have a copy of the land purchase, in Spanish, for his land. Rev. William Steele died in 1854. His wife was Mary Catherine James. My great grandmother was Amelia Elizabeth Steele, and she was born in TN, married Dr. Drury Stith Feild (yes, it is spelled this way), was widowed shortly after my great grandmother was born, in Mason County, IL.
        Rev. John Steele died in 1779…
        Have you gotten into the records through Dickinson College? I am sitting here with several chapters of a chronicle.. http://chronicles.dickinson.edu/histories/sellers/chapter_two.htm
        That will get you into the book..
        I spent time in Carlisle and was able to copy a lot from the courthouse records…
        I will go digging for the link for land in Texas..It is not a commonly thought of link. We used to live in Houston and San Antonio and taught school there. We still have kids there and grandkids.

  4. Donna Nichols says:

    Rev. Steele is buried at Mimosa Plantation…

  5. lifeofahumblemomandteacher says:

    Is there a Pennsylvania John and Nancy Steel belonging to this bunch?

    • jayhack2012 says:

      John, born 29 May, 1806, married Nancy Hall, …died 27 March, 1848. See this link.

      • smokeygranny says:

        Since some of the original messages in teh 1999 period were written, I have found out much more about my Rev. John Steele, yep, the ‘Fighting Parson’, have pictures from Carlisle, PA of Rev. John Steele’s grave along with that of his wife, Margaret Hutchinson and also his son, my 3rd great grandfather, Capt. John Steele, and his wife, Agnes Moore. Their son, William Steele, wound up in Texas, and was the first Episcopal priest sent in by the Diocese of Louisiana, in 1834… He bought land there, and I have copies of the land sales, ..in Spanish, no less, from Texas Bureau of Land Management. He is buried at Magnolia Plantation in East Texas, which is on the National Historic Registry. He died in 1854 in Texas. He and his wife Mary Catherine James (from VA) were in TN where their daughter Amelia Steele met and married Dr. Drury Stith Feild (yes, the spelling is correct on Feild) who was born in VA. She was his third wife and wound up raising children from his first marriage as his wife died, and he married her sister who also died. They had one daughter, Amelia born in 1838, and he died shortly after. I have a cedar chest here he had made for his wife, and it has been passed down through the years; I just sent it to Texas to my 11 year old granddaughter.



      • jayhack2012 says:


        If you have images of your land sales, or pictures of any old Steel(e) grave markers, I’d be delighted to publish them on my blog, and give you the credit. I’d especially be interested in pictures of the grave marker at Magnolia Plantation– I have the text from the marker, and may need to stop by sometime to take a picture. I should also put you in touch with Aaron Steele jahunter12@aol.com who is from this same line of Steele’s.

      • smokeygranny says:

        I gave you Aaron’s info..BUT..how can I get the pictures, etc, to you? I have a lot of things…including copies of his will…I spent time in Carlisle, PA and the Clerk of the Court turned me loose with the old original record books, and we were able to copy wills, etc..

      • smokeygranny says:

        Okay, I goofed; it is Mimosa Plantation..don’t know WHY I was thinking Magnolia…I hadn’t seen that marker and am glad to see the picture of it. Talked to grandkids on Chrismas Day. They are in Huntsville, TX and the 15 year old is a history nut! The 23 year old also wants to know more, so I am pulling out my 10 pound Steele folder!

  6. lifeofahumblemomandteacher says:

    I’m looking for the line of James Henry Steele (“Pap”) m. Altazana Crow. James Henry’s parents were David B. Steele and Elizabeth Ralston. David B. Steele’s parents are believed to be John and Nancy Steele.

  7. D Anderson says:

    “James was born in the town of Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan, in the province of Ulster in 1741. He had two brothers, John and William, and they lived in a stone manse opposite the Presbyterian Church. ”

    I would like to know the source of these brothers John and William.

    My elder John Steele d. 1802 Mecklenburg CO, NC. A male descendant of his is a participant in the ‘Steele DNA Surname Project’ and is a Y-DNA match to descendants of James Steel b.abt 1741. I am a descendant of of John Steele of Mecklenburg CO NC and also have several ‘Autosomal DNA matches’ to descendants of James Steel b.abt 1741.

    I am trying to understand how these two Steele families ‘connect’

    All leads appreciated.

  8. Kathy Edens says:

    I was looking for information on the Steele family and came upon this site. I believe my ggggrandfather was William Steele buried at Mimosa Plantation. My gggrandmother was Mary Catherine Steele who married Uriah Cunningham Gray. They lived in Panola Co and are both buried at Grand Bluff Cemetery in Panola Co.

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