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1800’s: Findlay Family


Some exceedingly interesting information with regard to Col. James Findlay, the builder of the fort here in the War of 1812 and leader for whom our city is named, is to be found in a historical work published at Mercersburg, Pa., with regard to that community’s background.

A copy of the publication was made available to the writer by Mr. and Mrs. H. Forney Hamilton, whose daughter, Mrs. Joan Rockwell, resides there now (1968).

There is a chapter in the volume entitled “The Findlay Family” written by a Findlay family descendant, Sara Findlay Rice.

The Findlay family history is traced to the grandfather of James Findlay in Pennsylvania. He was named Samuel Findlay. A son also was named Samuel, who marred Jane Smith.

To this couple were born six sons, one of whom was James, who later in his life came to Ohio and was the individual who built the fort here. The father died at the age of 35. The half-dozen sons were all born in Mercersburg. A farm in the area is still known as the Findlay farm, the historical work says.

After the father’s death, the farm was divided among the six sons and some of them lived for some years on sections of the estate “before they were called to wider fields of public service,” the historical record says.

The six sons were John, William, James, Jonathan, Samuel and Robert. James was born in 1775.

One, William, was to become governor of Pennsylvania in later life and United States senator. Two, John and James, were destined to go to Washington as members of Congress. Three Findlay sons — William, John and James — were all in Congress at one time. Only one other time in the history of the United States has this record been duplicated.

James, according to the Mercersburg historical work, “had western fever and went in 1793 to Cincinnati, then a frontier fort.”

“In 1798,” the volume continues, “he became a member of the Legislative Council for the Ohio territory, identifying himself with Mr. Jefferson’s party. He became prominent and filled various offices, civil and military, until 1824. In the second war with Great Britain he was commissioned colonel of the Second Ohio Volunteers and served under Gen. William Hull at Detroit.”

(The Mercersburg volume does not expand on Col. James Findlay’s military experience beyond the above statement. He was the commander of one of four regiments which made up Gen. Hull’s army in the War of 1812, and which marched through this area in the spring of 1812 en route to Detroit to engage the British forces.)

The volume goes on to say that the oldest Findlay brother, John, who had remained in the home area of Franklin County in Pennsylvania, was a colonel in the Pennsylvania volunteer regiment that marched to the defense of Baltimore in the War of 1812 and was elected to Congress from a Pennsylvania district.

“Though the brothers did not meet during their military campaigns, they were destined to meet in legislative duties,” says the history.

“In 1826, James Findlay was sent to the National House of Representatives at Washington and remained there until 1833. Thus Mercersburg has the remarkable record of having three brothers from one of her families in the United States Congress at one time, a record that has been duplicated but once in the nation’s history.”

The reference in the forgoing paragraph to the three brothers includes William, the former governor of Pennsylvania, who was in the United States Senate while his two brothers were in the lower house.

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