Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 32] one of the best-posted men in the early history of Lawrence County, now living in honored retirement in the city of New Castle, was born at Slippery Rock, this county, Sept. 2, 1820, and is a son of William and Dorcas (Wilkin) Elder, and grandson of John Elder, who was born in 1755 in the northern part of Ireland, and was a son of Thomas Elder, a Scotchman.

John Elder, our subject's grandfather, came to the United States in 1802, and settled in Slippery Rock, now Scott township, this county, and bought a farm, now owned by the McCracken estate, where he lived until his death at the age of eighty-five. His wife, who was Nancy Rose of Bedford Co., Pa., also possessed a very strong constitution, and lived to enjoy ninety-five summers. Fifteen childrenóten daughters and five sonsówere born to them, and all of them grew up to maturity.

William Elder, son of the foregoing, settled about three miles from the old homestead, and engaged in farming, afterwards keeping a general store at Harlansburg, drawing all his supplies by team from Pittsburg, forty-one miles away. In the War of 1812 he served as a volunteer. Besides his mercantile life, he cleared up a good farm, or was engaged in doing so, and while raising the frame for a barn was caught by a falling timber, and killed in 1828. His wife lived to the age of fifty-two years. Of the nine children born to them, Hannah, the wife of J. E. McConnell, John, the subject of this sketch, and Mrs. Robert Peoples are the only ones living to-day. After the death of William Elder, our subject's mother married as her second husband James Brown.

Our subject attended the public schools, and in 1836 became a clerk for John Wilson at Harlansburg, and later engaged in farming. In 1847, as partner of Michael Jordan, he took charge of the store, and in 1850 served as county auditor, and in 1860 filled the position of prothonotary for six years. For twenty-five years he was actively identified with the educational interests of the town, being a member of the school board for that length of time and also overseer of the poor. In 1860, he sold his store at Harlansburg, and removed to New Castle, and in 1866 purchased the Dr. Whipple farm of 150 acres, located at the east end of Court Street. A portion of this he has reserved for his private needs, and on that section in 1873 built the large frame residence, which stands there to-day; the rest of the property has been divided up into building lots, many of which, have been sold. He has also dealt largely in other real estate. From the period of his first residence in New Castle he has been classed among the first citizens and most enterprising business men. He was one of the first stockholders and one of the founders of the New Castle Agricultural Works, which were erected in 1870, and were devoted to the manufacture of Lawrence mowing machines, reaping machines, and sulky horse rakes; a very extensive business was enjoyed for two years, until the plant was destroyed by fire in 1873.

Our subject's wife, Eliza, daughter of James P. Elliott, was born in 1829, and has borne him six children, who are as follows: Margaret, who married S. B. Marshall; William J., of Warren Co., Pa.; Lillie, who married Judge J. W. McKinley of Los Angeles, Cal.; Mary lives at home; John is the teller of the National Bank of Lawrence County; Hannah D. died in her youth. Mr. Elder commenced to exercise his franchise as a Whig, but on the formation of the Republican party immediately transferred his allegiance thither. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and has been since 1863, in that year also becoming a charter member of the Union League. Although quite advanced in years, he bears his years with grace, and few men of sixty years are so active. He is sound in his judgment, a great reader, and because of this habit of always being posted on current events, he is never unprepared to engage with an adversary in debate, and he has ever proved himself no mean antagonist, and is never content without a complete victory. His opinions on the live question of the day are not put forward without due deliberation, and are then respected and valued on every hand.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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