Robert Wylie (1830) Washington County, Pennsylvania

Robert Wylie

ROBERT WYLIE (or better known as “Bob Wylie, the wool buyer”), the subject of this sketch, is of Scotch-Irish descent. His ancestors were known as leaders in the reformation of the Church of Scotland, and several of them were banished from Scotland and Ireland for their adherence to the principles of the new Church. His grandfather, Robert Wylie, was born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1743, and came to America with several of his half-brothers about 1761. They first stopped in the east, and further west, at Thompsontown, on the Juniata river, he married, about the close of war of the Revolution, Jane Thompson, daughter of John Thompson, and sister to Col. William Thompson and Capt. Isaac Thompson, of the Revolutionary army.

About 1780, with his wife, he came west to Washington county, and took up a tract of 600 acres of land (the main body of which is now owned and occupied by the four sons of the late David McClay, of Canton township), and on this land he built a log house in which he lived for some years, or until about 1800, when he put up the stone house which still stands, and is the present dwelling of Samuel McClay. Through this farm was the main Indian trail from the west to the dwelling of the great Chief Catfish, whose cabin stood on the bank of Catfish creek, at the foot of what is now Main street in Washington. (A chief watering place was a spring on this farm, where the wandering Indian always stopped to quench his thirst). He built a trade mill and distillery, thus opening a market for the grain raised in the neighborhood; he was also largely interested in salting pork for many years; later he started a wagon train, hauling products east, principally to Baltimore. He was a member of the Associate Reformed Church, and for many years an elder in the church at North Buffalo. In the burying ground around this old church his and his wife’s remains lie at rest. Their family consisted of three sons Robert, William and John and five daughters Ann (Brownlee), Jane (Humphreys), Sarah (Hodgens), Elizabeth (Moore) and Mary (Crothers). Many of the descendants of his daughters reside in Washington county and eastern Ohio. John Wylie married and settled in Ohio, where he became a successful stock dealer and farmer; William and Robert remained at home until 1834, when William sold his interest in the home farm to Robert; later, Robert sold the farm to David McClay and Bros., and soon followed his old partner in business, John Garrett (they having been associated together for several years in a store at West Middletown), to Baltimore, Md., where he acquired a considerable fortune. He died in 1872, unmarried.

William Wylie, father of Robert Wylie, Jr., was born on the old Wylie farm, September 25, 1800, and received a good education, having attended Washington College several terms. In 1829 he was married to Mary, daughter of James Clark, of Hopewell township, and after marriage he remained on the home farm four years, having in the meantime built a frame residence a short distance from the old stone house. In 1834, three years after the death of his father, he moved to the Razor Town farm of 210 acres, which he had purchased a year or two before. Razor Town, from which the farm took its name, was a village of twenty-six houses and cabins, with one good- sized tavern having a dozen rooms, and a blacksmith shop, race-course, etc. This point was known as a horse-trading post, and from the fact that many sharp deals were made there the place took the name of “Razor Town.” William, thinking that creditable neighbors could not dwell in such houses, immediately set about to remove them, and in a few years the little town passed out of existence. On the spot where the old tavern stood he put up a set of weigh scales, which continued in use until 1878; he built the present farm house, and occupied it until his death in 1877. His occupation was that of a farmer, and for many years he killed and salted about 1,000 hogs annually at his home. He was also a stock dealer (buying stock in West Virginia and Ohio), driving it east to Philadelphia and New York, and strange to say he never made but one trip over the mountains with his stock, as he trusted them to employees until his son Robert was old enough to take charge of them, which he did at a very early age. In partnership with his brother- in-law, David Clark, he owned and kept a general store for fifteen years in what is now known as the “Howe building” on Main street, Washington, between Chestnut and Beau streets. He hoped to make a store keeper of his son Robert, but the latter strongly objected to being tied down so closely to business. He sold the store in about 1849. He also dealt in wool, and in 1845 he built the frame warehouse on West Chestnut street, which is now occupied by R. Wylie & Sons, in the same business. William Wylie was a member of church for fifty years, first at North Buffalo and then at Washington, and was one of the organizers of the U. P. Church at Washington, of which he was a member. In politics he was originally a Whig, afterward a Republican. He was never an aspirant for office, but nevertheless was recognized as one of the best posted men of his time in matters political, and always took an active part in the issues of the day. His hospitality was widely known, and his table never wanted for guests. His rifle shooting was the one thing upon which he prided himself, and stories of putting three out of five bullets in a cap box (about two inches in diameter) with his old squirrel rifle, at one hundred yards distance, off-hand, are familiar ones to his grandsons and nephews. The children of William and Mary (Clark) Wylie were Robert; Jane (Beall), wife of John Stricker Beall, banker of Wellsburg, W. Va.; Mrs. Annie E. Thompson, living in Washington, widow of Rev. Joseph R. Thompson, late of the Associate Reformed Church; and James Clark, who died at the age of twenty years.

ROBERT WYLIE, the subject proper of this narrative, was born August 25, 1830, on the old Wylie farm in Canton township, Washington Co., Penn. He attended the district schools, and later took an irregular course at Washington College. He was not a rugged boy, and could not stand close confinement at school, so he early took to the roads where he might breathe a more free air. At the age of thirteen years his father intrusted to his care a drove of cattle and sheep to be driven across the mountains and sold in Philadelphia, the money to be brought back by him in saddle-bags on horseback. He liked this business better than going to school or staying in the store, so he continued at same for some years, at first driving to Philadelphia and New York, later to Harrisburg. When the Pennsylvania Railroad was being finished to Pittsburgh, he early took advantage of this means of transport, being one of the first shippers on the road passing over the nine inclines through the Alleghany mountains. In 1861 he moved with his wife and family to a farm in Cumberland township, Greene Co., Penn., where they resided until 1865, when he purchased the Dr. Stevens farm in Canton township (340 acres), situated two miles west of Washington on the Taylorstown road, upon which he erected all the buildings which now stand upon it. He now resides there, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. With farming he combined the wool commission business, in which connection he is probably best known, his figure being a familiar one in his own and adjoining counties in fact, to the people within a radius of fifty miles of his home his is a well-known, welcome face. His two sons, William and James B., became associated with him in business some four years since, the firm name being Robert Wylie & Sons, and the amount of wool bought and handled by them runs well toward a million pounds annually, the bulk of it being bought by the senior member of the firm, who gives to this branch of the business the greater part of his time. He is now sixty-two years of age, but looks younger, and is yet in the prime of life. In his rides through the country he fears no kind of weather or roads, nor does the worst seem to affect his iron constitution.

On February 3, 1857, he married Elizabeth, daughter of James and Mary McCormick Beall, of Independence township. James Beall was a farmer and storekeeper in Wellsburg, W. Va., for some years, and before the time of railroads he rode to Philadelphia on horseback to purchase dry goods. His wife’s father, who was also a merchant, lost his life in one of his trips to New Orleans, whither he was traveling to buy sugar, having, while en route overland on horseback, been murdered in Kentucky, supposedly for the money on his person, having a considerable amount at the time. The Bealls were among the early settlers of Baltimore county, Md., and Mrs. Wylie’s grandfather and grandmother Beall both came from Baltimore; her grandfather was a soldier in the early war, and his wife was a sister of Gen. Stricker, who so ably defended Baltimore against the British in 1814. They came West about 178-, and purchased a farm on the edge of West Virginia, near Independence, Washington county, where they raised a large family, whose descendants are now widely scattered both east aud west, though many of them are in Washington county, W. Va., and eastern Ohio. A brief record of the children of Robert and Elizabeth (Beall) Wylie is as follows:

WILLIAM WYLIE, born November 10, 1859, in Canton township, Washington Co., Penn., up to the age of fourteen years attended the common schools of his district, and then went to Washington and Jefferson College, where he remained four years. Returning home he engaged in the wool business with his father, and at the age of nineteen entered the Iron City Business College at Pittsburgh, Penn., where he graduated. He then embarked in the wool and farm implement business with his father, which they carried on for three years, when his younger brother James B. entered the business with them. They then abandoned the farm implement branch of their business, and have since been engaged exclusively in the wool business, which they have greatly enlarged, having extended their operations over a half dozen of the adjoining counties. They do business under the firm name of R. Wylie & Sons, and they are among the heaviest wool dealers in western Pennsylvania, enjoying the confidence of the people far and wide, to which their proverbial fair dealing justly entitles them. On June 16, 1885, William Wylie was married to Mary W., daughter of Joseph C. Gist, of Brooke county, W. Va., and they have been blessed with two children: Lizzie B. born October 6, 1887, and Clara V. born November 21, 1891. After marriage Mr. Wylie settled on his farm in Canton township, two miles west of Washington, Penn., where he still lives. He is a member of the U. P. Church at Washington; and in politics is a Republican.

Mrs. William Wylie was born August 27, 1861, in Brooke county, W. Va. Her father, J. C. Gist, was born March 16, 1820, in the same county. He was a large farmer and was engaged in the breeding and sale of fine sheep all his life. He was a Republican, and served one term in the West Virginia Legislature; was in the Senate in 1861, at the time of the war, one term. He was also talked of for governor of his State at one time, but for some reason best known to himself he did not run, although his friends assured him he would win. He died November 22, 1892. On August 10,1848, J. C. Gist married Elizabeth Culver, of Jefferson, Penn., born February 12, 1826, at Jefferson, Greene Co., Penn., daughter of Thomas Culver, a farmer. Mrs. William Wylie has three brothers and one sister living: Samuel C. Gist, J. W. Gist, and J. C. Gist, Jr., all living in Brooke county, W. Va., aud Mrs. John C. Roseborough, of Brownwood, Tex. Mrs. Wylie’s great uncle, Christerphor Gist, was a member of Gen. George Washington’s staff in the Revolutionary war.

James Beall Wylie, second son of Robert and Elizabeth (Beall) Wylie, born September 24, 1862, married June 24, 1890, Helen Cornelia, daughter of William D. and Elizabeth (Williamson) Roseborough, of Sardis, Miss. William Roseborough was a cotton planter, as were his father and grandfather before him; they were formerly of South Carolina. Her grandfather lived in Chester, S. C., and was clerk of the courts for fifty-two years; his wife, Eleanor (Key), was a daughter of Martin and Nancy (Bibb) Key, of Albemarle county, Va.; her great-grandparents came from Ireland to South Carolina about the time of the Revolution, and their families were both of French Huguenot ancestry, who left France about the middle of the seventeenth century; her great- grandmother Roseborough’s maiden name was Gaston, and she was a daughter of William Gaston, of Cloughwate, Ireland, who was a grandson of the Duke of Orleans (the leader of the Huguenots, banished from France in 1642, some history says 1652), brother of Louis XIII and son of Henry IV, King of France and Navarre. J. B. and Helen R. Wylie have one child, a daughter, named Marion Marguerite Wylie, born May 14, 1891. Their home is in Canton township.

Laura Virginia, the only daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Beall) Wylie, was born October 7, 1867, and was married October 1, 1890, to Joseph C. Gist. Jr., son of Hon. J. C. Gist, of Brooke county, W. Va., where they now reside. They have one child, a son, born June 11, 1892, named for his grandfather, Robert Wylie.


  • Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).