Answer: Jost Hite and John Bruce.
Question: What ancestor in my dad's branch of the family tree provided the land to which ancestor in Wayne's mom's side of the family more than 275 years ago?
The story: I've been researching Jost Hite, my 8th great-grandfather, for several months now. It's taken that long mostly because my family research time is sporadic but also because there has been a good bit of information on him. Rightly so; he was one of the first white settlers in the Shenandoah Valley.
Jost was an enterprising fellow, acquiring the rights to thousands of acres of wilderness if he could convince others to join him in establishing settlements there. In 1731 he sold his mill and farm and led a colony of 16 families into the unknown. They ultimately settled on the Opequon Creek near what is now Winchester, Virginia.
My 7th great-grandparents, Paul Froman and Elizabeth Hite Froman, were one of those families. As the generations progressed, the Fromans migrated to Kentucky before moving on to Illinois where my 3rd great-grandparents, Harrison Waters Riggs and Juliet Froman Riggs, were among the first settlers south of Edwards River in Mercer County. No matter how many stories I read about these pioneering families, not just in my family line but in general, I continue to be amazed by their bravery and sense of adventure. And for those family members keeping track, follow down two more generations and you would find Ada Riggs who married William Newton Steele, my great-grandparents.
I'm still documenting Jost who ended up amassing more than 140,000 acres in grants in the Shenandoah Valley before his death in 1761. While frequently described as a land baron, he distributed large parcels of that land to the families who came with him and in the years after that.
But sometimes I get a little bored with Jost or I don't have a big block of time to figure out where I am and where I was going on him. There hasn't been much of that time lately except when Mother Nature sends me an afternoon thunderstorm to drive me indoors. On those occasions, I look for someone in the tree I haven't done much on but whose name/family looks promising for research. Most recently I settled on Sara Ellen Smith, wife of John Wesley Kitterman...Wayne's 2nd great-grandmother.
Census records gave me her parents; records at Ancestry.com and a couple of old books available online gave me several more generations until I was back to John Bruce, Wayne's 7th great-grandfather born in Scotland about 1690. According to the Shenandoah Valley Pioneers Bruce was living on the Opequon Creek near what is now Winchester by 1740. Sound familiar? Wayne's 7th great-grandfather and my 8th great-grandfather were essentially neighbors.
There's more. The land upon which Bruce lived was part of the grant Jost Hite received. Jost gave a large block of land to his oldest son John Hite who then sold part of it to a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants, one of whom was John Bruce. Bruce was a carpenter and Jost owned a grist mill; perhaps they traded with one another. Bruce died in 1748 but his son James continued to live in the Winchester area until 1792 when he migrated to Kentucky...the same county and same year as the Froman family. That could mean Wayne's ancestors and mine were part of the same wagon train but at this point I don't have any resources to tell me that. I do have two books related to the Bruce line to find in libraries out of state. The Bruce family headed west as well but settled in Indiana rather than Illinois.
For those keeping track on Wayne's side of the family, the line goes Whilma Pearl Kitterman > William Alfred Kitterman > Sarah Ellen Smith Kitterman > Sarah Albin Smith > Margaret Bruce Albin > James Bruce, Jr. > James Bruce > John Bruce.
Connections like this simply amaze me...and make me wish for more afternoon thunderstorms so I have time to climb around in the family tree. It's more entertaining than a game show any day.