Robert Wylie

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

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

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 n
ot 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.

Submitted by: Alan Wylie
Date: May 20, 2003
Others: GIST, Laura Virginia (WYLIE); WYLIE, Mary W. (GIST)
Others: WYLIE, William; WYLIE, James Beall