1710 - 1767
At the age of 15, in the company of his mother and his two brothers, thought to be named Thomas and John, Alexander Foster arrived in the Colonies. He had been born in about 1710 in County Derry , Ireland .
It is believed the family landed in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania or New Castle , Delaware in 1725, having sailed from Londonderry, Ireland .
They first settled in Freehold, Monmouth County , New Jersey with other Scotchmen from the north of Ireland .
In about 1728, when Alexander was 18 years old, he left New Jersey and moved to Little Britain Township, Chester County , Pennsylvania . This township became part of Lancaster County on May 10, 1729 .
In about 1730 Alexander Foster married Mary Polly Connors and on April 17, 1744 he took out a warrant on 187 acres of farmland in the northern part of Chester County , Pennsylvania .
Children of ALEXANDER FOSTER and MARY CONNORS are:
1. JAMES FOSTER, b. 06 Apr 1738, Lancaster Co., PA; d. 07 Apr 1814, Poland, OH.
2. WILLIAM FOSTER, b. Abt. 1740, Lancaster Co., PA; d. 30 Sep 1780, Chester Co., PA; m.
HANNAH BLAIR, Abt. 1768, Lancaster Co., PA.
More About WILLIAM FOSTER:
Burial: Upper Octorara Church, Chester Co., PA
Event: Minister in PA, also a Rev War Vet
Occupation: Presbyterian Minister
3. JOHN ALEXANDER FOSTER, b. Abt. 1748, Lancaster Co., PA; d. 03 Oct 1832, Wilson Co., TN
4. ELIZABETH FOSTER, b. Abt. 1750; m. CHARLES KNEELY.
More About ELIZABETH FOSTER:
Event: Moved to KY
5. SUSANNA FOSTER, b. Abt. 1750; m. MR. WALKER.
More About SUSANNA FOSTER:
Event: Lived and died in Eastern PA
6. MARY FOSTER, b. Abt. 1754; m. MR. LUCKY.
More About MARY FOSTER:
Event: Moved to SC
7. JANET FOSTER, b. Abt. 1756, Prob Lancaster Co., PA; d. Prob Lancaster Co., PA; m. MR. FULTON
More About JANET FOSTER:
Event: Moved to OHIO
8. VIOLET FOSTER, b. Abt. 1758, Prob Washington Co., PA; m. JOSIAH SCOTT.
9. MARGARET FOSTER, b. Abt. 1760; d. Prob Lancaster Co., PA; m. MR. RUSSELL.
In April of 1767, at the age of 57, Alexander died in Lancaster County and is buried in the Upper Octorara Church Graveyard where his son, Reverend William Foster is also buried.
In his will he left half his estate to his son John, and a life interest in the other half to his widow. He also left instructions that after his wife’s death, this portion was also to go to John, who is our direct ancestor. All the other children received only five shillings each, but it is probable they were provided for during their lifetimes.
Alexander Foster's will can be found in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Clerk's Office in Will Book B, Volume 1, page 568.
The will reads as follows:
IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN. I, Alexander Foster of the Province of Pennsylvania, County of Lancaster, Township of Little Britain, being frail and weak in body, but of sound memory (Blessed be God), do this sixth day of October in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred & Sixty Six, make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner following (that is to say),
First it is my will and I do order that all my just debts and funeral charges be fully paid and discharged.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved son-in-law, Charles Kneely the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Susanna the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to by beloved daughter Mary the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Margaret the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Janet the sum five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Violet the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved son James the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved son William the sum of five shillings.
Item, I give and bequeath to my beloved son John the one-half of all my estate real and personal.
And the other half to my dearly beloved wife Mary during her natural life or widowhood. And at my beloved wives death; or her marriage, I then will my whole estate to my son John to him and his heirs forever. And I make and ordain her my wife and John, my said son, sole executors of this my will in trust for the intents and purposes in this my will contains in witness where of other said Alexander Foster the testator within named sign, seal, publish, pronounce and declare the within writing as and for his last will and testament and that at the doing thereof he was of sound and well disposing mind, memory and understanding to the best of their knowledge observation and belief. Sign'd, seal'd, delivered and declared by the said Alexander Foster as and of his last will and testament, in the presence of us,
Alexander (his X mark) Foster
In March 1772, Mary Foster filed the below affidavit in Lancaster County , Pennsylvania .
This is to certify that I renounce all design or intention of acting as administrator to the last will and testament of Alexander Foster, my late husband.
It being my desire that my son John Foster may be whole and sole administrator of the aforesaid will as witness my hand and seal this 10th day of March 1772.
Mary (her X mark) Foster
In addition to John Alexander Foster, who is the main focus of this generation, and who is my direct ancestor, Alexander had two other sons, James and William whose bios are included as they were important contributors to America's early history as a nation:
James, the oldest son of Alexander and Mary Foster was born in Little Britain Township, Lancaster County , Pennsylvania on April 6, 1738 . In 1766 he married Ann Barclay of Lancaster County , a daughter or granddaughter of William Barclay. (According to another story, Ann was the daughter of Hugh Barclay (or Barkley) and Hannah Kirkpatrick.)
Shortly after their marriage James and Ann Foster, in company with members of the Barclay family and other families, moved to Berkeley County, Virginia (now in the state of West Virginia), bordering on the Potomac River, facing Washington County, Maryland and only a few miles from the Pennsylvania line.
According to the records, James Foster served as a private in the Revolutionary War in the Liberty Company of the Londonderry Volunteers. He enlisted on May 17, 1775 under Captain James Cook. He is listed as a private in Captain Samuel Hays' Company, Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment from 1777 to 1781 and received depreciation pay to January 1, 1781 . It has also been stated that he served in a Virginia regiment commanded by Colonel William Davies and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown .
About 1782, James Foster moved his family to Washington County , Pennsylvania and became a pillar in this new community. He was one of the original trustees of the Canonsburg Academy, founded in 1791 with Dr. John McMillan as president, which later developed into Washington and Jefferson College and is now located in Washington, Pennsylvania.
It is James & Ann Foster who are the grandparents of Stephen Collin Foster (1826-1864), the composer of many American standard folk songs. Among others he wrote "Oh Susannah" in 1848 and "Old Folks at Home" in 1851. Stephen Foster died in New York City and is buried in Pennsylvania .
James Foster was one of the original elders of Chartiers Presbyterian Church, which now stands about two miles east of Canonsburg , Pennsylvania .
In 1797 after the death of his first wife, James married Phoebe Baldwin Dodd, the widow of Reverend Thaddeus Dodd of Washington County . She was the daughter of Caleb Baldwin.
On April 7, 1814 at the age of 76, James Foster died and was buried in the new Poland Cemetery , Poland , Ohio . He is buried in the family plot of the Struthers family. The last years of his life were spent with his daughter Mary who had married John Struthers.
The slab that covers his grave has the following inscription.
IN MEMORY OF
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
7 APRIL 1814
AGED 76 YEARS AND 1 DAY
"This spot contains the ashes of the just, who sought no honour and betrayed no trust. His worth he proved in every path he trod; an honest man in the noblest work of God"
Reverend William Foster, another brother, was born in Little Britain Township, Lancaster County , Pennsylvania in 1740. He graduated from Princeton College , New Jersey in 1764, having as his contemporaries in that institution, David Ramsey the historian, Judge Jacob Rush, Oliver Ellsworth, Nathan Niles and Luther Martin.
He was licensed to preach by the Presbyters of New Castle on April 22, 1767 and was installed as the pastor of the Upper Octoraro Church in Chester County Pennsylvania on October 19, 1768 .
He also, about the same time, became pastor of the Doe Run Presbyterian Church in East Fallowfield Township , Pennsylvania , where he preached one-fourth of this time.
He married Hanna, the daughter of Reverend Samuel Blair of Fagg's Manor. William and Hanna owned and resided on a farm a short distance east of the Upper Octoraro church. He purchased this farm on December 15, 1770 .
In the revolutionary war, Reverend Foster engaged heartily in the cause of civil liberty and encouraged all who heard him, to do their utmost in defense of their rights. On one occasion he went to Lancaster to preach to troops collected there previous to their joining the main army. The discourse was so acceptable that it was printed and circulated and did much to arouse the spirit of patriotism among the people.
Indeed, nearly all the Presbyterian clergymen in Pennsylvania were staunch Wigs and contributed greatly to keep alive the flame of liberty which our disasters had frequently caused to be almost extinguished in the long and unequal contest; and but for them it would often have been impossible to obtain recruits to keep up the forces requisite to oppose the enemy.
It was a great object with the British officers to silence the Presbyterian preachers, as far as possible they would frequently dispatch parties into the country to surprise and take prisoners, unsuspecting clergymen. An expedition of this kind was planned against Reverend Foster.
The British were in possession of Wilmington , Delaware and sent a party of light-horse troops from there one Sunday evening to take Reverend Foster prisoner and to burn his church. Reverend Foster received word of it on the morning of that day and hastening home, collected his neighbors who removed his family and library into a house remote from the public road. The troops, after proceeding twelve miles on their way, were informed by a Tory that their purpose was known and that parties of militia were stationed to intercept them and they return to Wilmington without accomplishing their object.
Reverend Foster died at the age of 40 on September 30, 1780 . He had a high standing as a minister and was held in much estimation by his congregation. They procured a tombstone to be erected over his remains in the Upper Octoraro burial ground.