Thanks for your comments Lynne. I can see your point that dialog would fill out the story, but I'm much more comfortable with something like this. I know I still have some more fleshing out to do, but this gives you the history of this branch of the family:
Christina hugged her father as James laid a stack of blankets atop the cradle he’d nestled along the side of their wagon. Though news may eventually trickle through, it would be a long time, if they ever again saw the family they were leaving behind. But, the debates were over. James and Christina Semple and their young family were joining the ever increasing number of pioneers traversing the turnpike toward the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania. The invention of the Conestoga Wagon made the journey infinitely easier, as a few years before they’d have had to load everything on horseback. At least this way she could take her kitchen table, and the dishes she’d so coveted.1
The appeal of the west, of course, was land. James’ service in the Revolutionary War had provided them with a 400 acre allotment of land on which they could settle.2 With the war over, the lands to the west had been opened for settlement. Were they apprehensive, excited? The lands they traveled into were hunting grounds still claimed by the Seneca, Shawnee, Wyandot and Delaware tribes, each of whom were becoming more and more agitated with each encroaching settler. The early pioneers were of hardy stock, sure of their abilities to not only endure the unknown challenges, but triumph over them.
The road they followed was sometimes muddy, sometimes steep, sometimes next to impassible and always full of potential pitfalls. Snakes slithered out of their way, abandoning the warmth on the large rock at the edge of the road; if wolves or panthers took note of their passing, it was hopefully with little interest. James stayed ever vigilant for sign of Indians; Christina, with John in her arms, watched to keep track of Mary, 9 and James II, 3. If they were really lucky, they would be thirty miles closer to their goal at the end of every day.3
Five weeks after leaving East Pennsboro, James and Christina neared the region dominated by Fort Pitt/Fort Duquense. After examining several areas, they claimed his acreage on a pretty little stream, named Girty’s Run after the border outlaw, which ran into the Allegheny River approximately 4 miles to the north of the Fort. Their first cabin was nothing elaborate. The logs James cleared from grounds he would farm, he notched and hoisted to form a wall. Christina and the children filled cracks between the logs with mud, sticks and stones. They likely had no window, both to hold in heat and provide protection. The doorway was made by cutting an opening in one side. Thus in 1789 or 1790, James and Christina became the first white residents of current day Millvale.4
Unlike some misinformed homesteaders, James followed the proper procedure to secure title to his land. He had redeemed his certificate in the Land Office in Philadelphia before coming West. Once his land was selected, he had applied for a survey to be completed. His request had been granted, and a warrant issued authorizing the survey. A sketch of the land had been made and submitted to the government. When the deed finally arrived, however, it titled the land in the name of "James Sample". Prior to petitioning for his deed, the family had spelled its name "Semple." After much though, the spelling of the family’s name was changed to "Sample" to conform to the deed." 5
James cleared and farmed the land. Eventually the forest, heavily wooded with oak, pine, chestnut and sycamore, had given way to open fields of corn, potatoes and beans. James could not spend all his time farming, however. In addition to protecting his family, he’d joined the local militia, who were charged with protecting all the outlining settlers from Indians. This left Christina home alone and responsible for the animals, fields and her children.
Although the lives of our mothers are not as well documented as those of our forefathers, they were just as important. We know the duty was upon them to keep the house running, including minor details such as not letting the fire go out - ever. On their shoulders rested the daily chores of maintaining a family: all the cooking, washing, cleaning, mending, tending the vegetable garden, helping in the fields, not only making the family clothing and bedding, but spinning the wool, tanning the leather, or using other methods of making the actual "fabric" from which they made the clothing. They were the first, and in some cases only, performers of first aid and comfort to those in need. They endured much, but endure it they did. Christina was a prime example.
On a cold winter day, the 7th day of January, 1791 Christina gave birth to her third son, Thomas. He was only the second white child born north west of the Allegheny River.6
Two weeks later, a band of Indians burst into their cabin screaming and brandishing weapons. With a quick ironic thought that of course James would be gone today, Christina and her four children were forced into the cold on foot. Terrified for herself and her children, Christina could only pray for both their safety and deliverance. Later she would probably pray for a new body, as carrying a baby for any length of time so soon after giving birth was taxing, but to do so while reassuring and encouraging her children and moving fast enough to appease their captors, was exhausting. When the Indians stopped for the night Christina had a little relief for dead arms and sore feet. At least the baby will get fed and be quiet, she thought as he nursed. Fortunately for her the Indians’ celebration was getting louder and louder for so were the complaints of her children, and she needed to think.
The answer to her prayers appeared in the form of young Indian woman, whom she had supplied with provisions the winter before. Gesturing to Christina and her children, the Indian woman loaded the older children one by one into a canoe that was really only big enough for one person. She ferried each across the river, dodging ice chunks as she went. The canoe was then given to Christina, who ferried herself and young Thomas across the river. Cold and exhausted, the family walked until they came across Mr. Ewalt, who took them in. The next morning they were taken to Fort Pitt for safety.7
Other locals taken by the same group of Indians were not so lucky. Mr. Chapman, who sometimes worked for James Sample, was traveling to visit relatives. He had stopped for the evening at the Dicks’ homestead and had just sat down to dinner when Indians rushed into the cabin. They killed Mr. Chapman and took the entire Dicks family captive. That family was eventually marched to Detroit, and two years later exchanged. So stealthily did the Indians move across the countryside that no one knew the Dicks were missing for two days. A pursuit party was formed immediately following the discovery, but they stopped at the border of Indian land, as venturing further was too perilous.8
Later, on quiet evenings, James and Christina would tell their children stories of their family history. Their ancestors were a warlike clan from Lochwonnich, Scotland. A Semple had ruled the lands around Castle Semple for hundreds of years, beginning with Robert de Semple in 1244. His sons were companions of the famous Robert the Bruce. Over the years, the Semples of Renfrew County had been warriors, barons, sheriffs and sometimes scalywags.9
Robert Semple, the third Lord Semple was charged with burning villages, murder and pillage before he fled to France to avoid prosecution.
Hugh, the 11th Lord Semple, sold Castle Semple to William MacDowell, a descendant of Fergus, Lord of Galloway, in 1727 when the family fortunes declined. Hugh turned his attention to the military where he served valiantly in both Spain and Flanders and became the leader of the Black Watch and Royal Highlanders.10
Life on the frontier was often lonely. The 1800 census lists James as one of only 171 pioneers in the area.11 Any visitor was heartily welcomed and offered the best their household had to offer, many times with pleas to stay for a day or two. Local gossip was exchanged, while the stranger’s horse was tended, his clothing mended and stomach filled. Such was the case in 1803 when John Crawford, accompanied by his son John II, stopped by the Sample cabin while searching nearby for desirable land. During their stay, John II and Mary, James and Christina’s oldest daughter, fell in love. In December 1804 John II returned they were married.12
Over the years James took on other roles and his family prospered. Ever the pioneer, in 1797 James Sample built the first grist mill in and area that would become known as Millvale after the many mills that would become prevalent.13 James, in fact owned the whole town site of Millvale until on September 23, 1844 he sold 164 acres to the city. The property was originally designated as poor farm, which was operated for 23 years, but the constant steam of new people into the town forced the poor farm further out. Eventually the acreage was plotted, streets were laid out and lots sold.14
James was the first Justice of Peace of Shaler Township15 and the second elected sheriff for Allegheny County, serving from 1795-1798. He also served on the first governing board of the Hiland Presbyterian Church following the granting of its charter in 1823.16
Christina died on November 10, 1829. Almost a year to the day later, James died on November 13, 1830. Their descendants however, continued to thrive and further make their stake in the area.
Two of James’ sons, James II and Robert made their way to an area in Pine Creek, which now reflects the family name: Sample-Wildwood. James II’s log cabin still sat at 4394 Wildwood Sample Road in 2009. Robert’s farmhouse was located off Vitullo Drive, just off Wildwood Road.17
Thomas Sample, the baby kidnapped by Indians when he was just 2 weeks old, became Allegheny City’s second mayor, serving from 1812 until 1843. He also served as Justice of the Peace and in his spare time, operated a tannery. In 1843 he leased his tannery out, bought a large farm and retired to live out the remainder of his life.18