Introduction: Anderson

Who was “Miss Anderson of Pennsylvania?”

Larry Pearce
1/16/04 rev. 7/22/09 & 4/29/13



The Anderson name is sprinkled throughout both my maternal and fraternal ancestors:

  • My mother’s Great-great grandfather James Ross (1815-1885) married a “Miss Anderson of Pennsylvania
  • Their daughter Jane (1837-1890) married Thomas Anderson Campbell (1837-1925)
  • Mary Jane Anderson ( ) married Rev. James A. Allison, D.D., of my Pearce-Nelson ancestors
  • My father’s Great uncle Edwin Pearce (1826- ) married Susan Anderson ( )
  • Dad’s Aunt Nettie (1878- ) married Charles Anderson ( ).

This Scots-Irish surname is still common in the North Hills of Pittsburgh where they settled in the early 19th century. We know now that our illusive “Miss Anderson of Pennsylvania” mentioned in the 1889 History of Allegheny County was Martha, possibly the daughter of the John and Mary Anderson listed on the 1863 indenture for the old Campbell farm in West Deer Township. Or could they have been grandparents or other relations? The county history suggests that Robert Anderson (1776-1846) was our patriarch and a native of New England, descended from the Plymouth Colony founded by the Pilgrims in 1620 with the landing of the Mayflower (1). This idea is also reinforced in the notes of my late Aunt Edna Gray (1920-1997), the family historian of the last generation.

As we said above, Anderson is ironically also a middle name on the paternal side of my mother’s Campbells. By Scottish naming customs, our Andersons and Campbells could have had common ancestry in the Old World. While we want to preserve Edna’s romantic idea of Robert as a Mayflower descendant for future consideration as additional information is uncovered, we have several new discoveries to share now that may shed some light on all these “Anderson” questions. In this piece we’ll also present the origins of the Anderson surname and tell you where to find some famous namesakes.

We know that a Robert Anderson settled in West Deer Township, Allegheny County, Western Pennsylvania, about 1806. One source says that he died in 1846 at the age of 60, which makes his date of birth 1786 but another says he was born in 1776. Could there be more than one? This Robert was the son of John (1731-1814) and Elizabeth Wilson Anderson, who came to the Conococheage Valley, then Lancaster Co. (now Franklin Co.), in 1765, which probably rules out Puritan origins (2). John was the Ruling Elder of the Middle Octotaro Reformed Presbyterian Church. In 1782, the family, including Robert and four other of what would be nine children, moved west to 500 acres of land in Washington Twp., Westmoreland Co. The tract was patented in 1796 and named “Anderson’s Delight.” John and Elizabeth are buried in the Polk Run Reformed Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Westmoreland County.

Son Robert married Mahaleth Thomas (1782-1852)(3) in 1799. They had a dozen children. The seventh child, Elias (1811-1887), who married Jane Haslett (1821-1878),was born and died on the same West Deer farm that his parents worked since 1806. Father, son, and many of the Andersons are buried alongside others of my family, the Grays, Norrises, and Leslies, at Bull Creek Presbyterian Cemetery in the township (4). So, the question remains, “Who were our Martha Anderson Ross’s parents?” We’ll leave it at that for now.

One thing should be clear by this time: The Scotch-Irish, and particularly the Andersons, were staunch Presbyterians, most Covenanters, or strict adherents of a Reformed Protestant British Isles. Recent E-mail correspondence with distant cousin Maureen Sweeney has revealed that her husband’s Great-grandmother Pearce married a Charles Anderson, whose ancestor was also Charles Anderson (1803-1878). He, with brothers Samuel and Hugh, sailed from Antrim in the late 1820’s or early 30’s, leaving two sisters behind. Charles settled in Hampton Township near the old Pittsburgh-Butler Plank Road, now Rt. 8. He purchased the “Green Grove” patent in the Depreciation Lands from Edward Bartholomew and James Cunningham, Revolutionary War soldiers. Today, all that remains of the farm is the Green Grove Drive through the neighborhood of Wildwood. What today is known as the old Anderson House at the corner of Rt. 8 and Anderson Drive was part of Hugh’s property. The community became known as “Talley Cavy,” a congregation of Covenanters. Later known as Pine Creek Presbyterian Church and Cemetery, the building is today occupied by the Depreciation Lands Museum. (See Allison) Growing up just north along Rt. 8, I’ve only recently discovered this rich history, but I do remember my Dad’s Anderson aunts, uncles, and cousins attending the Pearce Reunion in nearby North Park.

There are many other Andersons in Pittsburgh’s North Hills, some to whom I am sure I am related, but of special interest is Alexander (d.c. 1848) and Elizabeth Lawhead Anderson (d. 1880). Alexander farmed near Perrysville and was a blacksmith-welder for the IC railroad. Their eighth of ten children, Susan (b.c. 1835), married my great-grandfather’s brother, Edwin, in 1852 and they moved to Shreve, Ohio, in 1873 and raised seven children. (See Pearce-Tice.) Edwin’s father, Richard, is identified as a “miller by trade” in the original family narrative, so it seems natural that the Pearce tradition should continue. Powered by a water wheel, the millsite sat just east of town. Long after the operation ceased and demolition of the building was complete, the millstone is now on display at the Wayne County Historical Society just up the road in Wooster. Fred Tice, the grandson, wrote a tribute:

While Grandfather was a man of many jokes, Grandmother (Susan Anderson) Pearce was very sedate and not always inclined to smile at his sallies. Her reply was, “Oh, Pa, how you talk!” She was a good woman and always gave as she could afford to all the benevolences of the church. When young, she was a teacher in the schools of her neighborhood. Grandmother was a true lady.

Living past 80-years, Susan and Edwin now rest for eternity in the Shreve Cemetery with several other family members.

We can’t end our story of the Anderson name without a brief history of its origins. The obvious meaning is “Son (or servant) of St. Andrew.” The historical family is actually a sept (marriage as opposed to a fundamental clan) of Clan Ross. And while there are dozens of spellings and pronunciations, from the Swedish “Andersson” to the Ukrainian “Andreychyn,” the first recorded use in Scotland was on the Ragman Rolls of 1296 when David and Duncan, both “le fiz Andreu,” swore allegiance to King Edward I. Earlier legend has it that St. Regulus took St. Andrew’s relics to Scotland in the 4th century and later, “Anders” had become a popular northern Middle English form of Andrew. Both Scottish Highlanders and Lowlanders claim their own versions, which were subsequently taken to Northern Ireland and then to America. Probably the most famous Scottish hero is affectionately called “Little John” MacAndrew, a bowman who struck fear into the hearts of his enemies. He’s truly representative of the clan motto, “Stand Tall,” and the family icon, an oak tree. Other Andersons became renowned for their intellectual and artistic achievements. For information on these famous relatives, click on “The Scottish Nation” on the website or Google “Famous Andersons.”

So, while we’ve solved the mystery of “Miss Anderson of Pennsylvania,” we have not yet made the sure connection between Martha Anderson Ross, her parents or other relatives, John and Mary from the old Campbell deed, and the Robert Anderson line of West Deer Township. In addition, with so many other Andersons in the Scots-Irish North Hills of Pittsburgh, it would be nice to know if there are links to other parts of our family. We’ll certainly keep you informed as research continues.


1. The History of Allegheny County (1889) lists many Andersons: Robert, James, and Elias, to name a few. One Robert is identified as “Hon.”, “Squire” and “Esq.”, labels usually reserved for magistrates and legislators. He built the old Union Church in Shousetown (now Glenwillard) opposite Sewickley on the Ohio River. Several were from Washington County, PA, south of Pittsburgh. One hauled and hewed the logs that served as pickets for Fort Pitt sometime after 1758. A daughter of another Robert Anderson married a steamboat engineer who later formed a shipbuilding company.

2. Tradition says that these Andersons came from Dunluce, Northern Antrim. Appearing on the 1630 muster lists, they probably preceded King James’ Plantations in Northern Ireland, landing in the 1500’s with the McDonalds from Islay, a large island north of Ulster. This is ironic because the McDonalds were the sworn enemies of our Campbells.The Anderson name was originally McGillander, meaning “son of the devotee of St. Andrew.” Andrew is the patron saint of the Scottish and there are still Andersons and McGillanders on Islay today.

3. Mahaleth (as is on her tombstone, sometimes spelled Mahalath or pronounced Mahala) was the daughter of Moses and Mary Butler Thomas.

4. The third child, John D. (b.1848), is listed in the History of Allegheny County as being a public school teacher in the affluent Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg and eventually became their School Superintendent. I did my student teaching there in 1970.

Works Cited

“Anderson.” 22 July 2009

Cemetery Inscriptions from BULL CREEK PRESBYTERIAN CEMETERY, West Deer Township, Allegheny County, PA. 30 June 2002

“Descendants of John Anderson.” 3 November 2004

“Descendants of Robert Anderson.” 22 July 2009

Gray, Edna. Personal speculative notes. Date unknown.

History of Allegheny County, PA. Chicago: A. Warner Co., 1889.

Hughes, Penny. E-mail. 3 November 2004.

Springer, Grace Anderson, and Lois Anderson. Anderson Family History. [Community Library of Allegheny Valley, Tarentum]. 2003.

Sweeney, Maureen. E-mail. 20 July, 2009.

11 Responses to Introduction: Anderson

  1. Cindy Anderson Houghton says:

    Wow this was great to find. Robert Anderson is my great-great-grandfather. I am the daughter of Wayne Duncan Anderson, the child of Robert Bruce and Lulu Burchell Anderson. I would love to find out any other information you might have to share.

    • admin says:

      It looks like you and Carol are sisters. [See Anderson “Research/Writing in Progress.”] Thanks to both of you for your interest. As I told Carol by e-mail, I need to be reminded of the positive connection between “Miss” Martha Anderson Ross and Robert Anderson of Bull Creek Church. My Introduction was written some time ago and I need to re-document everything. Meanwhile, thanks for calling me on this and we’ll re-find that relationship soon.
      Your “Cousin” Larry

      • Carol Anderson Haworth says:


        Rick and I made it to Tarves, Scotland last summer! We saw the graveyard of my great grandmother Agnes Duncan Anderson, wife of Robert T. Anderson (first son of Moses). I have lots of pictures if you’re interested. It was an amazing trip. We took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then a bus to Tarves and back. Whew!

        • admin says:

          How nice to hear from you again. I’m glad your trip worked out so well. My kids got me a subscription to for Christmas and I almost wore out the computer in the first few days. While I haven’t found my Martha Anderson’s parent’s conclusively, I did find her husband James Ross, which delighted me. I’m in the process of organizing everything to post over the next few months of my retirement, so stay tuned. Would you send me some of your pictures to my e-mail: If I can get that connection to your Andersons, I’ll ask for permission to post a few. Welcome home, and thanks for the letter.

  2. Jamie Davie-Walter says:

    RE: Mary Jane Anderson who married James A Allison –

    Mary Jane was born May 2, 1832 in Leetsdale, Allegheny County, PA (Anderson Family Bible) and died October 30, 1853 in Sewickley Bottoms, Allegheny County, PA (PA Death R-egister). She was the daughter of Robert Anderson (1776-1836) and Jemima Taylor (1787-1864).

    Robert Anderson (II) was the son of Robert Anderson (I) and Elizabeth/Margaret Clark and was born in either NJ or Lancaster County, PA. In 1800, Robert (II) and his first wife, Elizabeth Agnew, along with his sisters Sally (Hastings) and Rebecca & husband Joseph Barton left Lancaster and settled in Washington County. Robert was elected Sheriff of Washington County in 1808 and about 1811/1812 represented Washington County in the PA Legislature. Between 1822-1825, the family moved from Washington County to Leetsdale, Allegheny County and from 1832-1836, Robert represented Allegheny County in the PA Legislature. Between his 1st and 2nd wives, Robert was the father of 14 children.

    I have much more information if you are interested in it.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for the information, Jamie. I’m posting it exactly as you’re giving it, but I will be incorporating it into future Allison and Anderson articles. I’m still searching for the grandparents of “Miss [Jane] Anderson,” wife of Thomas Anderson Campbell of West Deer Township (a Gray-associated family). Were they some how related? How are your Andersons related to the other Andersons of West Deer and Butler County? I’ll request more specific information as my research continues.

      • Jamie Davie-Walter says:

        Larry, I’m not sure my Anderson’s are related to any of the others you mention. Robert (II), father of Mary Jane Anderson Allison, was born in 1776 in either eastern PA or NJ. In 1800 he and his 1st wife, Elizabeth Agnew migrated from Lancaster County, PA to Washington County, PA. Robert was sheriff of Washington County from 1808 – about 1811; 1811-1812 he served in the PA Legislature for Washington County. Somewhere between 1822-1825, he and 2nd wife Jemima Taylor (Swearingen) went to Allegheny County, settling in Leetsdale. He served in PA Legislature again for Allegheny County 1832-1836 when he died.

        • admin says:

          As you might guess, my Andersons are an uncertain clan, appearing in the Campbell family both as a surname and a middle name. I’m finding the Allisons a little more fact friendly, as you have shown. The Andersons were on my mother’s side, and the Allisons from my dad’s, each from different parts of northern Allegheny County too. I’ll recheck that line to see where Robert II might fit. Thanks for contributing,

  3. Katherine Donnelly-Anderson says:

    In the obituary of my third great grandfather, Cyrus Evarts Anderson (b. 1822 Marietta Ohio and d. 1903 Butler, PA) his father was listed as Robert Anderson (b. 1794 Allegheny PA) and his mother was Magdalene Roth (born in Perry County and of German ancestry). This is his Wikitree: That’s where my trail goes cold. Can you help?

    • admin says:

      Hi Katherine,
      I too have lots of questions about the Andersons. I need to revisit my research. There are Andersons in both nearby Butler and Westmoreland Counties and lots of Roberts. I thought that Robert Anderson (1776-1846) of West Deer Township, Allegheny County was “Miss Martha Anderson” Ross’s father, but now I have my doubts. Perhaps you saw that ANDERSON was also the middle name of Thomas Campbell, the husband of Jane Ross. Thanks for your inquiry, and please stay in touch.

  4. Sarah Kirchhofer says:

    Hello All, I just want to start a conversation here, because I have recently discovered that I am a descendant of Robert T. Anderson and Mahala (Thomas) Anderson of West Deer, Allegheny, Penn. I also have some connections with some Pearce/Pierce, Ross, and Taylors may be from the same area, and am still researching. I will keep the names that you have listed in mind and see if I can help in anyway. This is my user name on Ancestry: sarah_kirchhofer314

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