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John J. Younkin
(1787-1839)

   

L-R: graves of John J. (1839) and Polly (1870)

 

John J. Younkin (1787-1839) was born on Feb. 6, 1787, near Lovettsville, Loudoun County, VA, the son of Jacob and Hannah (Nicola) Younkin

He is not to be confused with his first cousin and brother in law "Yankee John" Younkin whose identities have been confusingly and often incorrectly intertwined over the past 100 plus years.

The two Younkins named John -- five years apart in age -- married two Hartzell sisters: John J. Younkin to Mary "Polly" Hartzell (1785-1870) and Yankee John to Nancy Hartzell ( ? - ? ). The sisters are believed to have been the daughters of Revolutionary War veteran John Hartzell.

Yankee John's sister Mary Younkin wed George Hartzell, and John J.'s son Jacob J. Younkin married Dorcas Hartzell (1811-1880), adding to the complex family inter-connections.

When John J. was a boy, said the Meyersdale Commercial, his father "being a hunter left Louden [sic] county to come north where game was plentiful and after many hardships reached Somerset county and remained a short time on the plains between Ursina and Harnedsville and at that time could have purchased all that tract of land for the price of a rifle, but from his knowledge of woodcraft and the chase he knew that ground would be more plentiful on the high grounds therefore he moved on until he reached the land on which the Ursina Coal Mining Company's mines are now located and settled there. The land remained in possession of the family for three generations." 

John J. and his mother and siblings thus migrated to Western Pennsylvania, putting down permanent roots near the village of Kingwood in Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset County.

John J. and Polly had 11 children: Jacob J. "Dorcas" Younkin, Nancy Johnson, Susan Younkin, Hannah Smith, John Harrison Younkin, Mary Ann Phillippi, Catherine "Katie" Lichliter, Rev. Harmon ("Herman") Younkin, Elizabeth "Betsy" Hare, Jonas H. Younkin and Joel Younkin. The number of their grandchildren was at least 53.

Boundaries of farms of John J. and Mary "Polly" (Hartzell) Younkin: above, the 299-acre tract owned by his parents, as subdivided in 1837. The green line marks the border with the farm of neighbor and cousins Jacob and Catherine (Younkin) Minerd Jr. Below, survey of John J.'s 134-acre farm, circa 1840.

The children's names and dates of birth and death are recorded in a family Bible kept by their son Harmon, who in turn gave it to his son John F. Younkin who passed it on to a cousin, Colwell Seveno Younkin. [View the original handwritten list.]

The Younkins lived on a farm of 134 acres, inherited from John's father in 1811 but purchased through a legal patent in April 1836. The acreage adjoined farms of Michael Ansell, Jacob Younkin, Nicholas Hartzell and others. The tract was rich in timber, with stands of sugar maple, chestnut, hickory and other trees. He also held a legal interest in land inherited from his father and late brother Henry Younkin, with a two-story house, cabin barn and other buildings standing on about 100 acres of cleared land. 

 

Inventory of John J. Younkin's Estate
March 1840

Augur
Lot of chairs
Iron wedge
Bedstead
Lot of beegums & onions
Stone sledge
Dungfork
Hatchet
Sheepshears
Sausage horn
Ladle & candlestick
Smoothing iron
Coffee pot
Crock & honey
Crock & onions
Tub & crout
Met tub
Flax break
Bushels of rye
Bushels of wheat & 
   spring wheat
Bushels corn
Bushels oats
Pick & wedges

They also established a family burying ground on one of the highest points of land, and put it to unfortunate use in 1737 with the untimely death of John's brother Henry, married to Elizabeth "Betsy" Weimer.

 

Boast not another day, 
Nor call tomorrow thine, 
Thou mayest be snatched away 
By sudden death like mine.

--John J.'s epitaph, 1838

At the age of 52 years, 10 months and six days, John J. died on Dec. 12, 1839. His remains were buried in the Lemmon Farm cemetery along Humbert Road near Kingwood. The graveyard in the 1930s was known as the "Brougher Cemetery" but today is named "John Younkin Cemetery." Because three of John's children were underage at the time -- Herman, Elizabeth and Jonas -- Henry L. Holbrook was assigned as their guardian. 

The following text was inscribed on his grave marker, a poem which was popular on tombstones of that era, and also used on his brother Henry's marker a few years earlier:

After John J.'s demise, his son Jacob J. Younkin and Michael Sanner served as administrators of his estate. The 134-acre farm was purchased at auction by high bidders Joseph and Samuel Reymond. His other tract was offered for sale via advertisements in the Somerset Herald and Farmers' and Mechanics Register. The ad noted that the 299-acre farm, "on which are erected a two-story house, cabin barn and other buildings, [contains] about one hundred acres of clear land." It also advised that one third of the purchase price would become a principal investment, with "the interest thereof to be paid to the widow annually during her life time, and at her death the principal to be equally divided among the heirs and legal representatives of the deceased..." It was bought by Joseph Prinkey. 

Among those who attended his farm sale in 1846, or made other financial claims against his estate, were kinsmen Henry Younkin, Garrison Smith, Jacob Younkin of Jacob, Henry Minerd, Elijah Younkin, Jacob J. Younkin, John F. Kreger, E.S. Younkin, Herman Husband, Charles Minerd, Andrew Schrock and John Minerd.

Polly outlived her husband by more than three decades. In about 1866, her granddaughter Joanna Younkin married Yankee John's grandson Ephraim Miner. In 1870, federal census records show an elderly Polly in the household of her daughter Nancy Johnson in Upper Turkeyfoot. 

Polly passed on Nov. 14, 1870, at the age of 85, and was laid to rest in the family burying ground.

John and Polly were remembered in 1899 when named and described in a chapter about their grandson, John F. Younkin, in the book Biographical Review: Containing Sketches of Leading Citizens of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania, produced in Boston by the Biographical Review Publishing Company. The entry read: 

The grandfather was John J. Younkin, a native of Virginia, who came with his parents to Somerset County when a young man and engaged in farming. He married Polly Hartzell, a representative of a German family. Her father, John Hartzell, served in the American army all through the Revolutionary War.

In August 1970, the Laurel Messenger newsletter of the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County published excerpts from old Somerset Herald articles, including a notice of John's estate settlement, dated Oct. 21, 1845.

Burial site for John J. and Polly Younkin, which contains 15 marked graves, others with just field stones, and many which are sunken and unmarked.

~ Son Joel Younkin ~

Son Joel Younkin (1827-1831) was born on Nov. 26, 1827. He did not survive childhood and passed away at the tender age of four just three days before Christmas 1831.

 

This page is dedicated in the memory of cousin-researchers who graciously shared their findings: the late Donna (Younkin) Logan, the late Olive (Rowan) Duff and the late Joseph Warren Thomas III.

Copyright 2013 Mark A. Miner