Peter Taylor’s life on Wolf Creek

After Peter Taylor’s employment on Blennerhassett’s Island, he spent the reminder of his life on West Branch of Wolf Creek three miles southwest of Waterford. According to the 1810 census, his household included one male forty-five and over, two females age ten or under and three females over ten and under sixteen. There was no female old enough to be Peter’s wife, so she must have died.

On September 6, 1815, in Washington County, Peter married Margaret Ashcroft, daughter of John and Margaret Ashcroft. John died in 1806, leaving his wife Margaret land and $490 in personal property. In 1816 Peter expressed that he was very anxious over his indebtedness to James Grubb of Morgan County. Peter gave Margaret Ashcroft, his new mother-in-law, a promissory note after she agreed to lend him $125.60. In 1817 Peter paid taxes in Washington County on 240 acres on West Branch of Wolf Creek-50 acre lot 5 (west end), 100 acre lot 6, and 90 acre lot 7.

In 1820 Peter was over 45 and there was one female 26-44 (Margaret) in his household. He was engaged in agriculture. On April 29, 1824, William and Henry Vincent of Waterford Township sold Peter Taylor lots 22 and 23 (100 acres each) for $400. (Vol. 18, p. 489)

By September 1828 Margaret Ashcroft had died and Peter’s promissory note to her was still unpaid. In 1830 Peter, who resided in Watertown Township, was between 60-69 and the female (Margaret) in his household was between 50-59. A final settlement of his mother-in-law’s estate, made in 1830, was rendered more complicated when Peter contended that his note to her was made under fraudulent circumstances. By 1836, with Peter having been dead for over three years, the controversy continued. The case of Benjamin M. Brown, administrator of Margaret Ashcroft, plaintiff, versus Joseph Palmer, executor of the will of Peter Taylor, defendant, was before the Superior Court in Washington County, Ohio. (See Washington County Historical Society, Court House Documents, Box 6, Document 1451)

James Ashcroft, Peter’s brother-in-law, gave a deposition on July 25, 1836, in Delaware County, Indiana, its purpose being to convince the court that Peter Taylor’s note to his mother was legitimate. But it is Ashcroft’s description of Peter’s last years that is the most interesting. “(I)n consequence of a spreading and virulent [cancerous] sore on his forehead,” Ashcroft stated, “said Mr. Taylor lost one of his eyes sometime in the summer of 1825.” Then the sore was made “perfectly well” by the skillful attention of Doctors Samuel P. Hildreth and George Bowen. The cancer returned by 1829 and continued “to increase in virulence” until Peter’s death.

Ashcroft continued, “Mr. Taylor was a man of industrious and temperate habits, if his exposing himself to bad weather may not be charged on him as a species of intemperance. He was cheerful in his disposition; appeared to enjoy highly the beauties of nature; and was little given to those habits of mind which tend to impair intellectual power.” Seemingly with a great deal of admiration, Ashcroft noted: “This intellect was … in several respects of a high and original cast-untutored and wild, unsubdued and active …” Near the end, the deposition states, “he was weak and feeble in body; perhaps partly from the sore on his forehead over his eye, and partly from the advance of age bearing on a constitution naturally strong, but which had been broken down with unusual hardship and exposure …”

Peter Taylor made his will on November 23, 1831. He left his real estate to Margaret, his wife, during her lifetime. After her death the property was “to be equally divided amongst my children.” His will was witnessed by James Stones, Mary Stones and Henry Vincent. Probably due to illness, Taylor had made his mark on his will. At other times during his life, he had signed his name.

He died at age 72 years in September 1833. While he undoubtedly was buried at Wolf Creek Chapel, no gravestone remains there today to mark the site. David Gard, Hiram Gard and William Woodford, charging one dollar apiece, appraised the estate. The total worth of the appraised personal estate was $80.99. This included livestock consisting of seven head of cattle and two colts worth a combined value of $61.57.

The final settlement of his estate was submitted to the court in June 1838. Credits totaled $505, including 402.24 for the sale of his land. His debts totaled $577.39, including $4.50 to Dr. George Bowen for “last sickness,” $5.50 to H. Leonard for “Coffin,” and $30.67 to C[harles] Bowen & Co. & S[amuel] Miller. His largest debt was $311.12 for a “Judgment,” which was probably the outcome of the suit over his promissory note. His creditors were paid 81 cents and 5 mills on the dollar. (Washington County Probate Record 5)

Although Peter Taylor’s obscure life was destined to end in poverty and disease, it also had gained national fame by his brief link to Burr and Blennerhassett.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.