History of Williamstown, Wood County, West Virginia and the Kinnaird Connection
(Excerpts from newspaper cuttings)

Isaac Williams

Near the close of the eighteenth century, the first permanent settlement in the upper end of the present county of Wood, was made by Isaac Williams, who came to this section of the Ohio valley in 1787.

This sturdy frontiersman was born in 1737, in Chester County, Pennsylvania, moving later with his parents to Winchester, Virginia. Here he spent his boyhood in trapping and hunting favorite pursuits of the day. At the age of 18, he became a Ranger in the service of the frontier when Indians and French threatened annihilation of the Valley settlements. He served as spy and as a courier in the ill-fated Braddock campaign and made frequent trips to the fort carrying supplies and dispatches.

After hostilities ceased, Williams came on hunting expeditions down the Ohio river, extending his travel further, reaching the Mississippi river and finally the Missouri. This brave young frontiersman knew no fear and delighted in the perils of his hazardous trips. In the year 1768, with his parents, he emigrated from Winchester to Buffalo Creek in the present county of Brooke.

Directly after this he was engaged with the Zanes, who helped make famous the early history of the upper Ohio valley, in various undertakings calling for courage and hardihood.

Through his knowledge of the Ohio valley, secured in his frequent hunting and trapping expeditions, Williams was enabled to pick up some valuable holdings, which he preempted by tomahawk claims, and afterwards disposed of at a profit.

In 1774, Isaac Williams accompanied Governor Dunmore on his expedition against the Shawnees, and he was present at the treaty negotiated near Chillicothe.

When Isaac Williams visited the Grave Creek settlement, at the present site of Moundsville, in 1775, he met a young widow, Rebecca Martin (nee Tomlinson). She came as housekeeper for her brothers, Joseph and Samuel Tomlinson, who occupied their cabin on the early claim in 1771. In the same year of his meeting Rebecca, 1775, Isaac Williams claimed her for his wife. See the following article on "The Tomlinson’s".

The Tomlinson brothers, Joseph and Samuel, had preempted a claim for 400 acres, opposite the mouth of the Muskingum, in the year 1783, for their sister Rebecca, in recognition of her services to them when she had braved the wilderness and endured the hardships in that remotely located cabin.

Isaac Williams brought his wife, Rebecca, and daughter, Drusilla, to this claim in 1787. Here they founded the first permanent settlement which bears their name of Williamstown.

This old pioneer was noted for his brusque, hearty, honest ways. He was most industrious and possessing business ability, prospered greatly in view of the difficulties of the times. His kindness and benevolence were subject of comment, not only in his own settlement but beyond, extending to the sister settlement, Belpre, across the river.

The story is told in various histories, of a famine in 1789 which reduced the settlers in Belpre to the verge of suffering. On this side of the river, Williams had an abundant corn crop of several hundred bushels. He was beset by speculators to sell his crop in bulk at the unparalleled price of $1.50 a bushel. When Williams learned of the distress of his neighbors at Belpre, and across on the Muskingum, he refused to profit by his opportunity and sold his corn in small allotments to the suffering Colonists across the Ohio, being careful to proportion it, according to the size of the family, and at the low rate of 50 cents a bushel. He was a picturesque and popular figure of the day, and died at the advanced age of 84, in 1820.

There was only one child of this marriage, Drusilla, who married a prominent early pioneer, John G Henderson, who came from Dumfries, Virginia, in 1797. This gentleman held many positions of trust in the first days of the Wood county settlement. His wife Drusilla, Died at the early age of 20 and no children survived.

At the death of Rebecca Williams, the homestead reverted to her niece, Mary, daughter of her brother Joseph Tomlinson. Mary was the wife of John Asher Kinnaird, who came to this country to live on the Williams’ farm in 1807.


The Tomlinsons

The Tomlinson family, Scottish-Irish Protestants, came originally from Ireland about the year 1745. A brother, Joseph, settled at Little Meadows, near Cumberland, Maryland, he was the original Tomlinson in Western Virginia.

In that troubled time, there were few days of peace in the little Maryland settlement, for the French and Indian ferment involved them in daily dread and danger. After Braddock’s retreat, the renewal of the outrages struck terror to the staunchest hearts of the early pioneers.

The spirit of adventure which brought this family to America prompted this first Joseph Tomlinson, after his ten children were well grown, to make expeditions down the Ohio, accompanied by his sons, surveying lands and making claims on choice lands in the wilderness.

It was in 1770 that Joseph Tomlinson and his son, Samuel, made the first tomahawk entry at the present site of Williamstown, leaving, "there sign or token of claim, that is their initials blazed on a beech tree with gunpowder", and this is considered the first claim noted in Wood County annals.

The children of this first Joseph Tomlinson settled in different sections of Virginia, Maryland and Western Virginia. Those within the state settled near Wheeling on Yellow Creek, and at Grave Creek on the present site of Moundsville. One son, Benjamin, of the Yellow Creek settlement, had a daughter, Rebecca, who married Jonas Beeson of Williamstown, the ancestor of residents in Wood County today. Another daughter, was the mother of Mary Ann (who married a Neal) and of Elizabeth (who married a Cook), while another daughter married a Thistle, who established the family of that name, prominent in Sistersville today.

A son, Joseph Tomlinson Jnr, settled at Grave Creek in 1770 where the frequency of the Indian raids prompted the family to build a private fort, known at that time as Tomlinson Fort. This is the Tomlinson who came with another of his brothers, Samuel, in 1771, to look up the entry made by their father, Joseph, and Samuel the previous year.

On the site of the town of Williamstown, they are said to have built a cabin and cleared the four acres of land which they planted in corn, which is said to have been the first crop of corn raised by white men in this section of the country. At intervals, for four years, these pioneers returned to the cabin and planted crops to secure their settlement rights to the 1000 acres which they preempted above and below the present town of Williamstown. With them on these trips, they brought as housekeeper, their young 18 year old sister, Rebecca, widow of John Martin (who had been killed by Indians in the year 1770). She shared the early hardships of this primitive life along with great danger and anxiety. At that time the Fort across the river had been built. The valley was an open prey for the marauding savages. In gratitude for the services of this sister, the Tomlinson brothers took out in 1783, settlement rights for this 400 acres in the name of Rebecca Martin. This widow became the wife of Isaac Williams, and they came in 1887, from Grave Creek to become the first permanent settlers in what is now named Williamstown. Samuel Tomlinson was killed at Yellow Creek, where he was visiting his brother-in-law.

Life for the Joseph Tomlinson family at Grave Creek reads like one long perilous adventure. The Indian outrages after the murder of Logan’s family became so frequent that the family was forced for a while to go back to the old Maryland settlement until affairs quieted down in the Virginia settlement at Moundsville. The children of this family grew up and settled in different sections of Western Virginia. One daughter, Lucy, married a Riggs and became the maternal ancestor of Charles M Martin and Mrs. William Peterkin of Parkerburg, and of the Martins of New Martinsville, Wetzel County.

Another son, Isaac Tomlinson, went to Kentucky and three children of Joseph Jnr. (Mary, Drusilla & Joseph) came to the present County of Wood to live on the land given them by their father at his death.

Drusilla married Hezekia Bukey, of French extraction, and they had their log cabin home commodious for that time near the railroad, above Williamstown. This home was the center of hospitality in the little settlement in the upper corner of Wood, in the day. The sister, Mary, known as Polly, married John Kinnaird and among their descendants in the fourth generation are the families Snodgrass, Lewis and Kinnaird.

Joseph, the third child, was born in Maryland during the period when the Tomlinsons had returned for protection from Indian outrage and it was this member of the family who came to Wood county and in 1808 built a home on the farm below Williamstown, known as the "Henderson Place". This is the Tomlinson who figured in the early history of Wood county. Joseph Tomlinson was commissioned Justice of the Peace in 1816, was sheriff of the county in 1836 and represented his district in the Virginia legislature. A hale hearty octogenarian, he died in 1864 at the home of his only daughter, Elizabeth, who married George W Henderson.

Note: John Asher Kinnaird is part of Kinnaird Worldwide Family number 37.