- Bessie Iola Staymates's Profile
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- By Bob Cupp Published: Friday, August 26, 2005
- The Staymates House was built at what is now Murrysville between 1785 and 1790 along present-day Round Top Road. This small two-story log cabin has played a unique role in Murrysville's history. The house, with an addition built prior to 1830, is located about 30 yards south of historic Forbes Road. It may have served as a rest stop for early :settlers traveling west, and it has been referred to as a "blockhouse," used in defense against Indian attacks in those days.
- After British Gen. Edward Braddock failed to capture Fort Duquesne in 1755, the task was assigned to Gen. John Forbes. In spite of Col. George Washington's strong recommendation to use the earlier Braddock Road, a new northern route was selected for the expedition to retake the fort. It was believed that this route would provide better security, as well as the element of surprise. There also was the political consideration that Pennsylvania wanted a new road that :would cross the mountains through its undisputed territory instead of land :also claimed by Virginia.
- Washington, a brigade commander in Forbes' army, set up camp west of :present-day School Road South near its intersection with Round Top Road :about a mile south of Newlonsburg. Despite extensive research, the camp's :precise location remains undetermined. However, with more than 2,500 :troops and support personnel occupying the encampment, a large area :covering at least several acres would have been occupied.
- Washington and his brigade arrived at the camp on Sunday, Nov. 19, 1758. More soldiers and colonial militia joined them on Monday, Nov. 20, and all of Forbes' army bivouacked there on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 1758. Although that was the last documented use of Washington's camp, it's presumed that part of the army stayed there on its return from the captured Fort Duquesne. Not only did George Washington sleep there, but so did Forbes, Col. Henry Boquet and Col. John Armstrong.
- The successful Forbes military expedition to what became known as Fort Pitt finally opened the region to settlers from the east. Constructed for the purpose of recapturing Fort Duquesne from the French and Indians, the road also provided early settlers with a viable transportation route over the Allegheny Mountains. These pioneers hauled all their possessions with them by wagon or pack horse, crossing mountains, streams and rivers for the promise of a better life on the :western frontier. It was also Forbes Road that brought Jeremiah Murry, founder of Murrysville, to the area in 1782.
- A clearly visible section of old Forbes Road climbs the hill above School Road South and remains relatively undisturbed. It runs parallel to what is now Round Top Road down into the valley where Round Top meets Pleasant Valley Road, crossing Haymaker Run beyond what is now Logan Ferry Bridge. A trace of the road is visible for about 1.5 miles on private property. Once that land is developed, this section of the historic road will be lost forever.
- Samuel Hoy (Hoey) originally owned the land along Forbes Road where the Staymates cabin is located. The property was passed to James and Ann Hoy in 1814. In 1852, it was purchased by William Staymates, a descendent of Philip Steinmetz, a Prussian immigrant who served under Washington during the Revolutionary War. William's son, Samuel James Staymates, married Ellen Elizabeth "Lizzie" Deckar in 1887. Their 12 children were raised in the little log cabin. Unfortunately, Samuel died in 1907 before their youngest child, Robert, was born.
- At the age of 18, their oldest child, Bessie Iola Staymates, was already teaching at the Dible School, three miles south of Murrysville, where she had 14 students and received a $35 monthly salary. Upon her father's untimely death, Bessie was forced to assume the role of family bread winner.
- In 1908, when a school was built on the Clark Farm a mile west of Export along the Northern Turnpike, she went there to teach. Bessie Staymates also taught at Newlonsburg, Murrysville, Hills, Lauffer, White Valley (as principal) and as principal at Sardis, where she concluded her distinguished career in 1955.
- During her 50 years of teaching, Bessie Staymates held three positions outside what was then Franklin Township. In 1915, she taught at Denmark Manor; she was assistant supervisor at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh, and also taught at the Fort Pitt School in Jeannette. She was a well-known and respected teacher and principal throughout the region.
- The Staymates family owned the property from 1852 to 1972; the land was farmed until the early 1900s. Bessie Staymates lived her entire life in the log house along old Forbes Road. She spent more time than anyone else exploring the local section of the road and its surroundings, and insisted to her death that Washington's Camp was located on the Staymates family farm.
- When she passed away in 1972, "Miss Bessie" willed the Staymates Farm to the Westmoreland County Girl Scouts. In 1977, the log house, barn and remaining seven acres of land were acquired by Murrysville and the property became part of the municipal park system.
- For the past 20 years, the Staymates house has been occupied by Bill and Cheryl Williams and their family. They have restored and maintained the house, raising their six children there. Bill Williams described the magnitude of the restoration project: "The walls were plastered with newspapers from the Civil War era; the plaster was 6 inches thick. The fireplace had been covered with white brick and there was a funky front door that didn't go with the house. The ceiling had been lowered to the point where we felt like we were living in a cave. The floor planking had been covered with plywood. We stripped the walls and ceiling to the original log walls and hand-cut floor joists, removed the plywood, restored the fireplace and replaced the door."
- The Williamses are re-enactors, playing roles from the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and are regular participants at nearby Bushy Run Battlefield, re-enacting the events that occurred there Aug. 5-6, 1763. Bill Williams makes all the outfits for the characters they portray. The clothing is so authentic it's sometimes rented by movie sets. He also makes 18th-century crafts and uses his blacksmith skills to produce period iron implements.
- Williams has appeared in several movies, including "Last of the Mohicans," "The Patriot," "Glory," "Gettysburg" and "Gods & Generals." He also participated in a History Channel documentary on the French & Indian War, and he has done set design work and served as armor adviser in the production of "Glory."
- With extensive collections of historical artifacts, antique firearms, Indian relics and period costumes, it appears that the house has been converted into a living museum. A wide variety of artifacts found along nearby Forbes Road, including stone road markers, also are proudly displayed.
- Historical tours of the house frequently are given to school children and scouting organizations. "In the fall, we'll probably book a class a week. It's a good field trip for the kids," Williams explained. Art and history classes are held at the :house occasionally, and artists and historians are frequent visitors.
- Williams has spent the majority of his life in the historical restoration profession. He expressed his feelings about restoring log homes: "I like to keep the old stuff alive. You can't just tear down old buildings. They're part of our history."
- Doug MacGregor, a Fort Pitt Museum educator, said Williams is an inspiration. "It is my firm belief that it was his enthusiasm and excitement for history that led me to choose a life in the history profession," MacGregor :said. "Bill Williams truly symbolizes the term 'living historian.'"
- As an historical interpreter and educator, Bill Williams can't conceal his passion for preserving the history of Forbes' 1758 military campaign here. "This is where America was formed," he said, summing up the historical importance of the Staymates house and Forbes Road. Hopefully, the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Forbes expedition in 2008 will stimulate public interest in Forbes Road and Washington's camp at Murrysville, and the roles they played in an emerging new nation.
- Hills Ch Cem, Export, Westmoreland, PA
- Emmanuel Ref Church, Export, PA
- 26 JUL 2009 20:06:24 GMT-5
Thank you to Matt Johnson for creating WikiTree profile Staymates-15 through the import of Johnson Sherwood-1_2013-01-27.ged on Jan 27, 2013.
Click to the Changes page for the details of edits by Matt and others.
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