Jill and John go to Uniontown, PA, to search for John's great-great grandparents
October 9 - 14, 2003
Last Updated 19 Nov 2003

What a wonderful time we had in Pennsylvania! We appreciate all the prayers on behalf of our search. We have been richly rewarded and definitely felt the Lord's help in our work and success. There is no doubt that this is His work - and He is just waiting for us to show an interest so He can bless us with all that is needful.

Our first view of the Pennsylvania Room in the Uniontown Public Library was somewhat disappointing. It was obvious that there was a lot of material there, but it was not organized in quite the way we had hoped for. The neatly transcribed and indexed records from the churches, cemeteries, newspapers and government sources that we had envisioned did not exist. Instead we found error-ridden and incomplete family histories, lists of grave markers, published local biographies, etc. Many of these sources we had already searched on the internet. We quickly realized that if we were to accomplish anything, we needed to be led by inspiration. Jill told John that he was the designated inspiration receiver and he should decide how we should proceed. This system worked very well.

John said he wanted to see James Madison Price's grave in the cemetery. We knew from his death certificate and the cemetery lists we had seen previously that the grave was in the Hopwood Cemetery. So we headed to nearby Hopwood, a first ring suburb of Uniontown. Hopwood was quaint with its mix of 19th and 20th century buildings and one main street, but we couldn't find the cemetery! John stopped at a funeral home and asked directions. (turn left at the bank and cross the creek) He also learned from the funeral director that the cemetery had been started as an informal burial ground by some of the families in the area before 1800. The man who knew most about it had died a year or so ago and there really are not very good records for it.

At the cemetery, we split up and wandered about. Jill headed towards an older looking (and spooky) section with unevenly placed graves and lots of fallen tombstones. She eventually found the McFadden "family plot" at the west end of the cemetery. The gravestones there were placed in a straight row and were of a similar size and design, showing they had been carefully placed and cared for some years ago.

One of the oldest gravestones in the McFadden plot was "Rachel Ellen" but the inscription was extremely difficult to decipher, due to the age and condition of the gravestone. Jill called for John, [who had meanwhile found the graves of David and Sarah Williams (parents of James' second wife, Mary Ellen) and Dora and Mahlon McCoy (Dora is Mary Ellen's daughter previous to her marriage to Madison).] Back to the McFadden graves--we deciphered this much from her stone: Rachel Ellen, wife of James M ????? (it didn't really look like Price, but we couldn't tell for sure) daughter of John and Sophia McFadden died May 1, 1875 (we thought) aged 30 years. Then there was something written on the bottom part of the stone that we could not decipher at all because of the wear and moss. We had heard about rubbings of gravestones and other methods of preserving and reading them, but had never before paid attention to the details. It was getting dark, so we left the cemetery and went to a store to find materials to do a rubbing and/or a scrubbing of the stone the next day. (We called Susan Ogilvie from the store to ask for suggestions and instructions.)

John is here displaying the things we bought to work on the gravestone: paper of appropriate size and thickness (under his right arm), spray cleaner with bleach, a stiff brush, and crayons and chalk (in the bag) for rubbing on the paper and on the tombstone.

Friday morning we went directly to the cemetery with the intent to decipher Rachel's stone, so we could tell if she was "our" Rachel, mother of John B Price. We learned a lot about gravestones in a short period of time. This shows Rachel's gravestone during the cleaning process, after we had done a rubbing and found that it wasn't quite as clear as we hoped. Note how the gravestone leans back. It was pretty wobbly, so we thought we could drop it to the ground to prevent it from toppling on its own, and to get a better angle for scrubbing. It was pretty heavy! It was quite a struggle to get it back up after cleaning it, but we managed.

When the now-horizontal gravestone was sprayed with the bleach cleaner, we found that it foamed down in the bottom of the engravings and made it much more readable. We found the last name of James M. was RYNE, not Price, as we had hoped. At this point we had serious doubts about our theory that John and Sophia McFadden, who lived near James and Rachel in 1870 were the parents of Rachel Price. We knew from the 1860 census that they had a daughter named Rachel, but now it looked like she had not married a Price, but a Ryne. So we concentrated again on finding the graves of Madison and Mary Ellen.

When we came back to Rachel's grave on Sunday afternoon after church, we were amazed to see how clearly we could read her gravestone. The sun was just in the right position. However, we were never able to decipher the saying at the bottom. We made out a few words which let us know it didn't contain any facts that we were hoping for, such as birth date or cause of death. We did notice that all the McFadden gravestones listed the person's age at death down to the day. Rachel's says only 30 years. We are assuming this means she died on her 30th birthday

Now going back to Friday morning after reading Rachel's gravestone, we said a prayer (one of many), then Jill suggested that John choose an area for searching to find Madison and Mary Ellen. He pointed east and we started looking there, but found no one we knew. (We also knew from the "lists" that James Madison's son, Alfred and his wife Jennie were somewhere in the cemetery and hoped they were all together.) After a couple of hours, John found Alfred and Jennie's graves and their son, Orran, but no trace of Madison and Mary! Back to the PA room at the library.

On the way back to the library John had an "epiphany". He remembered that the last name of the young family of James and Rachel in 1870 (Jerica had found this entry in January) did not look like "Price" (or as we had interpreted it "Pryce"), but "Ryne"! When we got back to the PA room, John looked up the family in the 1870 Census again and sure enough - it was clearly Ryne! Does that mean that James and Rachel Ryne had three children with the same names and ages as James and ??? Price? When we arrived at the PA room, we related the tale to Vickie, the librarian there, and she suggested looking in the newspaper for the death notice.

Imagine our delight when the newspaper notice announced the death of Rachel Price on May 1, 1875! We asked ourselves, Is it possible that Rachel Ryne and Rachel Price lived in the same township at the same time, died on the same day and both had husbands named James M and children named Sophia, John and Alfred of the same ages? And where is the announcement of Rachel Ryne's death? or the 1870 listing of James M Price? At this point we concluded that James Madison Price and James Madison Ryne are the same person!

Our apologies for the out-of-focus pictures of the newspaper articles. They read: (under section "Died") "PRICE - At Monroe, Fayette county, Pa., May 1, Miss Rachel Price." and "Mrs. Rachel Price, consort of Madison Price, died on Saturday evening, the 1st inst; she was unwell about six months. She leaves a husband and several children." Both notices were found in The Genius of Liberty, Uniontown PA newspaper, May 6, 1875

Another great find in the newspaper, The Genius of Liberty, Uniontown PA newspaper, July 25, 1861, was this wedding announcement of Rachel McFadden to James Ryan on July 13, 1861. But you say, "Wait! that's Ryan, not Ryne" We have been looking at newspaper articles and censuses of that period long enough not to be at all worried by "Ryne" versus "Ryan". Clearly, spelling didn't have the exactness that we perceive it has today.

So the search for James Madison and Mary Ellen's graves continued. We had been all over the cemetery a couple of times and found nothing. We found a listing of the Hopwood Cemetery in order of occupants, rather than alphabetical as others, and noted some of the markers close to them that we should be able to locate readily. On Saturday we went back to the Hopwood Cemetery and continued the search with this new ammunition. We found the graves of their nearest neighbors, but we couldn't find them. We thought that somehow they weren't there any more.

Then Jill looked at one of the small metal funeral markers on a metal tube we had seen around the cemetery, and discovered that they said Mary E. Price and Madison J. Price, with their birth and death years. Jill was impressed that we found them where John had earlier pointed that we should look. It was great to finally find them, but this was a tremendous emotional blow to John, that with family in the area at the times of their deaths, none of them could provide them with even a simple marker! It wasn't right. We immediately began a plan to get one for them. We went over to one of the two monument makers on Monday to see what we could do. The owner, Harold Hahn, was the nicest fellow, nearly 80 years old. We got to be the best of friends with him. He loves the Tabernacle Choir and does a lot of singing himself. We looked at a few markers that he had on his lot, and decided on a 3' by 1.5' by 10" at the base, slanting face marker to include both their names. Harold drove us over to the cemetery to get the position where we wanted it placed. We also walked over to Rachel's grave and asked if there was anything we could do for hers. He suggested keeping it as it is, but straightened, and adding a small flat marker in front. We will do something for hers before long.

We just received a picture of the completed and set gravestone for Mary Ellen and James Madison from Harold on November 17. He apologized for the way the sun was on it. We hope Mary Ellen and James approve of the what we had inscribed. On the back it says, "The hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers."

As best we can tell from the censuses, James Madison married Mary Ellen Williams in 1877, or a couple years after Rachel died. We searched a lot through newspapers for that announcement, but we could never find it. However, we did find Mary Ellen in a funeral home report which gave her birth date and death date, so we have most of her information now.

Also in the Hopwood Cemetery we found the gravestones of David and Sarah WIlliams, parents of Mary Ellen Williams. A third side of the marker was for a child, Sarah M Price. We weren't sure who this was, but figured she must be a relative. James' obituary mentioned a daughter Margaret, who preceded him in death. We think this might be Sarah Margaret.

Then we found in the newspaper, The Genius of Liberty, Uniontown PA, January 15, 1891, this announcement about the death of a child of Madison Price. It seems they had more important things to report, like the weather, than to include the child's name and any other details. However, the timing is right for this to have been Sarah Margaret Price

As we contemplated the Price versus Ryne situation, we thought about James Madison's son, John B. Price, who is listed in our genealogy as John Bryon (Brynes?) Price. We have never seen anything else with other than the initial B. for a middle name. Suppose his name had been written somewhere as John B Ryne. Put the B and Ryne together and you're pretty close to Brynes. The same goes for Bryon, Ryon being another spelling for Ryne. Maybe this is the source of these questioned middle names. We can't seem to determine where this designation came from.

On Saturday while we were at the Uniontown Library, Jill poked around again in the 1850 Census for Georges Township (where James Madison was then) and found a Skiles family which had a 26-year-old mother, Mary J. Skiles; her 3-year-old daughter, Sarah M; an 11-year-old boy named Madison Rine, and a 70-year-old woman named Susan. Susan's last name is not listed, and we presume from entries in other families that her name would also be Rine since her entry follows that of Madison. The family we had found in the 1850 Census that we thought was that of James Madison had a 12-year-old boy.

This revelation had a quite dramatic effect on us, because now we were questioning the families we thought were James Madison's in the 1850 and 1860 censuses. About the only thing we had to connect these to other later censuses was the fact that in the 1860 Census James was a blacksmith. So have we been looking at the wrong family all along, and the real one has a Madison Rine? We have seen other cases in census where individuals are clearly listed more than once in a given census. Maybe this is the case here too, and James Price and Madison Rine are the same person.

In the obituary for James Madison Price is listed a step-daughter, Dora McCay. We were able to find Dora Williams, age 7, in the 1880 Census living with David and Sarah Williams, Mary Ellen's parents, and Mary Ellen also. In the 1900 Census we find Dora married to Mahlon McCay, with 5 children aged 7 and down, and with them is also Sarah Williams, her widowed grandmother.

Up till our trip to Uniontown, we were under the impression that her married last name was McCay, but we found the grave stone for Mahlon and Dora, with a last name of McCoy. Several other things we found make us pretty sure that the name is McCoy. The newspaper must have misprinted her name as McCay in James Madison's obituary (I found it on microfilm and it is clearly printed as McCay), and in the census record it isn't clear whether the census taker spelled it McCay or McCoy. Now we have some more details clarified.

We knew that some of our ancestors were buried in the Tent Presbyterian Church cemetery, which is located in South Georges Township near Fairchance. We went there on a couple occasions and found the grave of Jane Osborn, who was listed as a widow in the 1850 Census with Elizabeth Price and her children living in the same household. But we couldn't find Elmer Price, oldest son of John B Price, who died at age 14. What we really were hoping to find was a record of his burial which might give us a cause of death, but we found that the records had been burned. We were told that a woman, Jeanette Long, had all the remaining records of the church. We visited her on Sunday, and found she had some information on the Osborns, but everything indicated that the researcher didn't know who Elizabeth Price was. So we still have a roadblock in trying to go beyond James Madison Ryne or Price.

We found lots of information among the McFadden family graves. This shows whose grave is where, looking east from the western edge of the Hopwood Cemetery. The parents are John (1) and Sophia. Their children are Dorcas, Rachel, John (2), Mary E, William and Sophia Ann (1), all of whom died while quite young, ranging in age from 3 to 35. Two other children, Jesse and Hannah, are not buried here and grew to adulthood, but we don't have their death dates. Two daughters of Hannah and Rice Hopwood, R. Ella and Sophia Ann (2) are buried here. Dorcas and her husband, James Clelland (or McClelland) have two children buried here, Jimmie and Ninnie. Ninnie and her husband, Staten A. Barnes, have an unnamed son also buried here, with "A BOY" on his gravestone. There are two gravestones that we can't identify now. We'll just have to go back and figure it out. The one in the right foreground is not of this family.