The Mystery of Henry Moon

Larry Pearce

Moon family house
McCandless Twp., PA
(before razing, 1927)

There is little doubt that my ancestor, some six generations back on my father’s side, was Henry Moon of McCandless Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. But, he has many descendants, if inquiries on the Internet genealogical forums and family message boards are any indication. In this article we’ll explore some of the comments and speculation about our early Moon family of Northern Pittsburgh and confirm what we know positively up through the births and marriage of Alice Virginia Moon (1865-1947) and Joseph Marshall Hill (1858-1939), my great-grandparents. We hope you’ll find the answers to several side questions interesting: Are we related to a former Presidential candidate? Is Moon Township in Allegheny County, the home of the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, named for our family? I will credit these sources: Cousin D. Christine Adams, who has been researching the Moons for decades; the late Roberta Wohlgemuth (1917-2010), also a cousin, who likewise has been after the elusive Henry Moon and his descendants for years; and of course, my family records.

One thing that many of our family traditions indicate is that Henry Moon operated a tavern or inn and raised a large family. From that point on, however, to around 1835 when my Great-Great Grandfather Joseph Myler Moon, Jr. (d.1905) was born, there is some confusion. One newspaper source cites a span of 117 years from then back to when a Henry Moon was born. Was Joseph, Sr.’s father Henry, Jr.? That’s a long time for just one generation. The names and those of the wives are often confused. My family information says that Joseph M. Moon, Jr. was Henry’s grandson and came to board at the inn in 1858 at the age of 23. We believe that the inn stood at the corner of Wildwood Road and Babcock Blvd., because the Moon family farm comprised what is now the southern shore and waters of North Park Lake. According to my late father, Ralph H. Pearce (1917-2002), the Moon house stood back in the “hollow” where the present day Moon Grove picnic pavilion is located, along Old Ingomar Road. This quiet two-lane passage, along with the busier Ingomar Road, which begins west of Wildwood Road, is still the main thoroughfare between the Etna-Butler Pike, now Rt. 8, and the Pittsburgh-Erie Road, now Rt. 19. The hectic Babcock Boulevard, now probably the busiest road in the park, offers a diagonal route from northeast to southwest, from the lake to the swimming pool. Most taverns in colonial days offered most everything: food, drink, and overnight accommodations. So, if Henry Moon’s tavern were anywhere near either of these roads, let alone at the intersection, it certainly would have been successful. But, when the later Moons began to clear the land and farm those north-facing fields, they probably weren’t as successful as farmers because of the angle of the sun. By comparison, my Pearce ancestor’s farm and fields just over the ridge at Pine Creek [see “Settlement at Pine Creek: Pt. II”] all faced southwest. That, along with their popular gristmill, assured them of a healthy year-round income for over a century. For context, it was my grandfather, Wesley Pearce (1876-1955) who married Bessie Hill (1887-1974), the oldest daughter of Alice Moon and Joseph Hill who ran the farm portion. We believe, at this time, that Alice would have been the great-granddaughter of Henry Moon and Sarah Wilson.

Christine Adams has sent me a Census history of Henry Moon that indicates, because he was at least 45 years old in the 1800 census, he was born before 1755. Because he no longer appears in the 1830 census, she believes that he died around 1825. Christine quotes an abstract from the Kittanning Gazette that lists the death of Revolutionary War soldier, Henry Moon of Pine Township, Allegheny County, PA, at age 107. In our family tree we have simply taken the earliest possible date of birth then, according to the newspaper (1718), and the latest date of death according to the census (1825). Durant’s history lists Henry’s birthplace as Ireland (167) but another source says he was born in England. We believe that he served under British General Burgoyne in the American Revolutionary War, but it was customary for the Royal armed forces to conscript men from anywhere in the British Isles. What was unusual was that he would have been a nearly 60-year old non-commissioned soldier if he actually were born in 1718. Secondly, by the time the war was over, he was apparently fighting on the side of the Americans. Durant says, “He was a soldier in the British service, and crossed the ocean under Burgoyne’s command. He subsequently deserted, and served during the war in the American army” (167).

Cousin Christine Adams, while unsure whether old Henry was conscripted from Ireland, Scotland, or England, to fight at Saratoga, or whether or not he escaped to fight for the Colonists, she has convincing evidence that he ended up in Cumberland County, near Harrisburg, as a land holder and Pennsylvania militiaman before claiming land in Western PA. Her papers show that Moon didn’t always show up for duty, nor did he sign the proper papers in McCandless Township, Allegheny County, to be able to legally pass his estate on to his son at his death. Christine has promised to provide the full story along with documentation at a later date. As many of us family historians, she has been greatly limited by the Covid Pandemic.

Perhaps the most amazing thing in our sources is that the 1800 Federal Census shows three children younger than 10 in Henry’s household. We have corroboration that at least one of these was Henry’s. According to an application for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) by Mary A. Marshall Sober, dated 1934, veteran Henry Moon and wife Sarah Wilson were the parents of Jane [Moon] Marshall (b.1791), as certified by a family Bible record. He may have been in his 70’s when these children were conceived.

Western Pennsylvania
Depreciation Lands

Under a Pennsylvania plan initiated by Ben Franklin, Henry would have been, as a veteran, entitled to what were known as “Depreciation Lands.” [See “Pittsburgh in 1820: Two Families’ Attraction” for additional information.] These were in 400 acre tracts on the western frontier and could be settled or sold by the claimants. Durant’s History (1876) states several items:

•    “Pine Township was one of the original townships in the tract set apart by the Legislature in 1783 for the redemption of depreciated certificates, and was organized a township in the summer of 1796.”
•    “Previous to the year 1800, James Duff, James Amberson, Philip Sarver, and Henry Moon had settled on the northern part of the land embraced in the new [1851 McCandless] township.”
•    “James Amberson had made some improvements on the land that Moon subsequently settled, but had not been there long enough to gain a settler’s right.”
•    “Moon came to the township in 1796, previous to July 20. At that time he built a cabin, and in 1797 moved his family there. Some of the old logs of this cabin are still remaining on a part of his place now owned by his son, J.M. [Joseph Mylar, Sr.] Moon. His location in McCandless was on Pine Creek.” (167)

Another source published in 1889 agrees with the date Henry came to Pine Creek: “Henry Moon came in 1796. He reared a large family, and three of his sons, John, Joseph, and Murdock still reside on the old homestead” (Cushing). But some of this information is problematic, according to Christine Adams: “Even if he has these three sons immediately after coming in 1796, they would all be approaching 100 years old by the time this history was published. If anything, I suspect that Henry may have had three grandsons living on the homestead in 1889. Also, by 1889 the property of Joseph M Moon, Jr. had been passed off to Daniel Moon.”

Adams points to Allegheny County Deed Book 28:444 and an agreement dated November 3, 1821 between Henry and son Joseph where, in return for the transfer of some 400 acres, Joseph promises to provide Henry and wife Sarah “sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging, and wearing apparel, and the use of the house in which they now reside in common with the said Joseph’s own family for their natural lives and surviving them.” Furthermore, should a dispute arise, the deed called for resolution by 3 to 5 “mutually chosen men.”

The date of 1821 is significant, and Adams believes it is closer to the time of Henry’s death than our earlier year of 1825. First, The Pennsylvania Archives reports, “Henry Moon, died in Allegheny County, 1821” (Second Series, Vol. 13 166). Second, a work in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania entitled Alphabetical List of Soldiers of the War for Independence, compiled from the Auditor General’s Depreciation Account Books, confirms “Moon, Henry, died in Allegheny County in 1821” (Vol. 1 166).  Perhaps most importantly, she repeats Hatcher’s citation of a DAR report to the Senate in 1956 pertaining to the burial place of Henry Moon: “Sugar Loaf Hill, North Park, near the Moon Lodge, Allegheny County, PA” (Senate Document Serial Set 11999, Vol. 8). While it doesn’t mention the year, the reference to “Moon Lodge” seems to confirm the old inn so prominent in our family tradition: “He [Henry] had the Inn first. Records show that his grandson (Joseph M. Moon) came to board at the Inn in 1858 at the age of 23. He died in 1905,” The words “lodge,” “inn,” and “board” seem to indicate some type of commercial establishment, but the mention of a grandson Joseph M. and the years he lived may solve the mystery of the great length of time between Henry and my known ancestors. Furthermore, this short family narrative mentions the grandson’s wife as Susan (1846-1931) and his siblings: Hance, Murdock, and Sara Jane “who died at age 26 in 1863.” A letter dated January 1922 written by Susan and Joseph, Jr.’s daughter, M. Keturah Moon, confirms this line.

Other confirmations on the existence of two Joseph Myler Moons, a son and a grandson of Henry, are as follows:
•    The 1830 Census of Pine Township, which lists a Joseph and Sarah Moon born around 1795 with at least one resident of the household born as early as 1740.
•    The 1850 Census listing a Joseph, Sr. (b. 1795) and a Joseph, Jr. (b. 1833). This record, indeed, lists other children as Hance and Sarah Jane but no Murdock, as mentioned above. He may have come later.
•    The Allegheny County Deed Book 465 (363) show transfer of Joseph M. Moon, Sr’s original land by his son, Joseph M. Moon, Jr. and wife Susan, to Daniel M. Moon for $1.00 in 1886.
•    The Allegheny County Estate Index records Joseph, Jr. as “administrator” of his father’s estate rather than “executor,” meaning that Joseph, Sr. had no will. We believe that Senior’s death date of 1896 is in error there.
•    Krayneck lists both Joseph Myler Moon, Jr (1835-1905) and Susan E. [Fleming] Moon (1846-1931) as buried at Pine Township Cemetery, A.K.A. Cross Roads Presbyterian.
•    The February 21, 1905 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituaries reported the death of Joseph Myler Moon, Jr.

Our family tradition says that Joseph, Jr. was granted 200 acres of land, all of which is now included in North Park, because he served in the Civil War. He would have been just 26 years old in 1861. Commonwealth Patent Records (Vol. 131 396) confirm this.
But where is Sugar Loaf Hill on which Henry and Sarah are buried? Sharon Krayneck of North Park says that the major cemetery, St. Paul’s Lutheran, is on Parrish Hill. Another, much smaller one, was consolidated when the park was built in 1927. Apparently, all the interments were placed together in a common grave and the stones removed to another site. Nancy Long, Chairperson of the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s cemetery committee has a listing for the Alexander Guyton family cemetery. Could this be the final resting place for Henry and Sarah? Supposedly the Guytons and Moons intermarried at some point.

Henry & Sarah Moon’s unmarked graves atop Flagstaff Hill, McCandless Twp., PA

Christine Adams’ search for Moon in the Pittsburgh area reveals some rather prominent descendants:
o    John Moon (1806-1867) was the Weigh-Master for the City of Allegheny [now the North Side of Pittsburgh] in 1859 & 60. He also owned a store there, J. Moon & Co.
o    Alvin T. Moon (1871-1939) retired from Mellon Bank after 40 years.

A recently revised article, “Five Short Letters from the 1920s,” reveal some interesting relationships among our Moon and Davis families of Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Minnesota. Alvin T. Moon and others are introduced.

My Grandmother Bessie’s files contained two Pittsburgh Post-Gazette clippings pertaining to prominent family members, Susan Moon Hill, her grandmother, and another Joseph, whom we can’t quite locate on the family tree. Unfortunately, Bessie didn’t include dates and other information. Joseph D. Moon, Jr. (1870-1956) was named Allegheny County Morgue Superintendent at the age of 27. He was a graduate of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, and the Cleveland College of Embalming. He taught at what is now the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. “J.D.,” as he was called, was in charge of the County Morgue during the infamous 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.

The other interesting Moon clipping involves Great-great grandmother Susan Ethel [Fleming] Moon, or “Susie E,” as husband Joseph, Jr. used to call her. The newspaper refers to him as “Myler,” and they married in 1863 when she was only 17 and he was 28. Family tradition says that she had come from England just before the Civil War, when she was 10 of 12 years old, but the newspaper reports that she was born in Venango County, PA, in 1846. That means she was a 15-year old American at the start of the war. She had come to the Pittsburgh area when she was 35, so we wonder if she and her husband lived elsewhere after the war. Our Susan was 85 when she died at her Allegheny County home. She rests in the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Pine Township with many other of our Moons, having produced 8 children, 18 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren.

Some in our family believe that Susan may have been related to Margaret [Fleming] Landon (born in Oil City, PA and died in 1918 in Chautauqua, N.Y.), who married Alf Landon in 1915. He was the Republican candidate for President in 1936. His daughter, Nancy Kassebaum, is now the U.S. Senator from Kansas. Several of Susan’s family had moved to Kansas, including Samuel Edmund Moon (d. 1941), another of her sons, [see “Before, During, & After the World Wars: Pt. II “ about his death] and T.W. Fleming, her brother. Could Margaret Fleming Landon have been our Susan Flemming Moon’s sister? More research on a possible connection to the Landons and Kassebaums needs to be done, but in the meantime read “Introduction: Fleming.”

As another aside and much further back in time, even before Henry Moon’s conversion to the Colonists’ cause, Margaret Olley “Peggy” Moon, no relation I’m sure, became the second wife of one of my namesakes, Thomas Pearce, who was serving with the British in 1754 attempting to drive the French and Indians out of Western Pennsylvania. To make a long story short, Thomas deserted around the time of the Battle of Fort Necessity to return to his first wife and six children. After she died and most of those children were raised, he moved to Georgia to marry Margaret and produce 18 more children. That interesting story is from an Internet friend, Bill Pearce.

Finally, the answer to the question of whether Moon Township, Allegheny County, PA, was named after our family. This is the area around the new Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. I graduated from Moon High School, and my mother still lives there. Moon Township was formed in 1788 at the first session of the Allegheny County Court, the first of seven municipalities created back then. Reportedly, there were no Moons in the new Moon Township at that time. According to the Beaver County Times, “Most historians believe the township took its name from its crescent shape, which is the result of a bend in the Ohio River that serves as the township’s northern border.” Originally, the township was 143 square miles, too much for maintaining roads and polling places, so in 1790 the court renamed a portion as Fayette Township. In 1800, Beaver County was formed from western Allegheny and Washington Counties. But Moon was still too big, so officials designated Moon one and Moon two, as if names were scarce. The population then was 527 for one and 1,056 for two. Finally, over time, The Moons became Hanover, Greene, Hopewell, Raccoon, Center, and Potter Townships and the borough of Monaca.

We hope that we’ve answered some of the questions about Henry Moon and his descendants posed in our title. He was hard working, wise, and long-lived and he realized the American dream. While our sources are still somewhat indefinite as to dates of birth and death, we now believe that five generations separate us from Henry. Whether he lived the reported 107 years or fewer, we know that he had both a son and a grandson named Joseph Myler, and his daughter-in-law was a different Sarah than his wife. They tamed some of the most imposing wilderness in Western Pennsylvania at a time when nearby Pittsburgh was truly the “Gateway to the West.” Their many descendants, as exemplified by Great-great grandmother Susan, spread the Moon name and ambition across Allegheny County and the entire country. Much research still has to be done, but we thank Christine Adams, Roberta Wohlgemuth, and others for their contributions. Your help will be appreciated as we continue to revise this narrative for future generations.

Works Cited

Adams, D. Christine. “Known Descendants of Henry Moon.” Unpublished notes. 2 November, 2001, and various e-mails through January, 2021.

Cushing,__. Genealogical and Biographical History of Allegheny County, PA, 1889.

Durant, S. W. History of Allegheny County, PA. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts Co., 1876.

Kraneck, Sharon. Allegheny County, PA, Cemeteries, Vol. 6. Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1983.

Kusko, Lisa. “Beaver, Allegheny Counties Share in the Origin of Moon.” Beaver County Times.

Moon, M. Keturah. Letter to Susan E. Moon. Jan. 10, 1922.

Riley County Historical Society and Museum, Manhattan, KS. Letter in response to inquiry by Mrs. Emery Drescher. Mar. 31, 1983.

Wohlgemuth, Roberta. Various E-mails. 23 December, 2000 to 3 November, 2001.

Last revised 2/17/21

7 Responses to The Mystery of Henry Moon

  1. Some truly wonderful work by the owner of this web site. Perfectly great content .

  2. Craig Daniel Stauffer says:

    Very well written and informative. My grandfather is the Joseph Daniel Moon Jr. listed in your article. You’ve helped me fill in some of the blanks as I was dead ended with my past Joseph Mylar Moon research.

    Thank you for making this accessible, and if in the future when I find more information on Henry Moon, I’ll pass it on.
    Craig S.

    • admin says:

      Nice to meet a cousin. I’ll be getting back in touch with you as I do the Vitals for the Moon family. Sure wish we knew more about ole Henry!

      • Craig Stauffer says:

        Hi Larry. Hope this finds you well. It’s been far too long since I’ve had time to look at or even work on my family tree. I have noticed you have My grandfather’s birth and death dates, showing the dates for Joseph Daniel Moon, Sr., my great-grandfather, My grandfather was born in 1915 and passed in 1973, The Photo of him is correct on the bio page.

        • admin says:

          Hi Craig,
          These Moons can be confusing, as the dates you give for J.D. #4 seem to match our second family mortician: . I haven’t listed him in my immediate family tree as he would be a distant cousin, but thanks for helping me keep this straight. I wonder what he’s think of our Covid-19.

  3. D Christine Adams says:

    Hi Larry – I’ve referred to this website several times over the years, and always appreciate its content and organization. Just wanted to let you know I have accelerated/resumed my research on Henry Moon et al in the past few years. I have uncovered some new information, but most of it needs to be better corroborated before I’m ready to share it. Am actively working on that, and when I am comfortable that I can support my new assertions, I’ll be in touch. Since I know Roberta Wohlgemuth was of a good age when we corresponded, I assume that she may have passed on at this point. Christine

    • admin says:

      Long time, no hear, Christine. I finally got back from vacation only to find out that my membership has expired. I’ve done a lot of work on what I call “Vitals” since I talked to you last. I would appreciate if you could scan what I have so far on the Moons and offer suggestions and/or corrections. I certainly won’t post anything that you’re not comfortable with. Great to know that you’re still working hard, but I don’t know anything about Roberta, unfortunately.Thanks for your kind words,

      2/28/19: This is a long-delayed postscript, Christine, and I am writing you also under separate direct e-mail. Unfortunately, I learned of Roberta’s 2010 passing and have posted a tribute to her in my “Cousins’ Corner” series: . Larry

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