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George Sinclair

George Sinclair (1848-1930), Scottish-American Coal Miner

George Sinclair was born 1 April 1848 in the village of Gartsherrie, parish of Old Monkland, county of Lanark, kingdom of Scotland. He was the second son of coal miner, James Sinclair (1826-1891), and Mary Paterson (1828-?), and was baptized a Presbyterian on 9 April 1848. The Scottish census of 31 March 1851 shows young George (age 2) living with his family on Herriot Row in Gartsherrie. The Scottish census of 1861 shows George and his family living on Parish Road, village of Newarthill, parish of Bothwell, district of Holytown, county of Lanark. The ages of his siblings indicate the family had been in Bothwell since shortly after the last census. George (age 12) is listed as coal miner, as was his brother James (age 14), his father also named James (age 35), and, a few houses away, his grandfather, yet another James Sinclair (age 55).

James and Mary Sinclair, with their younger children, but not sons James and George, immigrated to the mining village of Arnot, Tioga County, state of Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. They arrived on the S.S. Australia at Castle Garden, Port of New York, out of Glasgow, on 16 June 1870. Efforts to locate George in the 1871 Scottish census have been unsuccessful though George is listed as a coal minor living in the village of Carfin, parish of Bothwell, when he married Sara Lyons on 18 June 1872. The ceremony took place at Cleekhimin, parish of Bothwell, at the Free Church of Scotland (a breakaway sect of Presbyterians). Sara was the daughter of coal and iron miner Robert Lyons and his wife Sarah MacReady, both deceased by this time.  The 3 April 1871 Scottish census shows Sara living at 7 Front Row, village of Cleekhimin, district of Holytown, with her coal miner brothers, William, James, Robert, and John, as well as her Irish born cousin, Margaret Wallace.

George and Sara lived in Bothwell Parish for the next nine years, where daughter Mary was born 25 November 1873, son James on 7 June 1875, son Robert on 16 June 1877, son George in March 1879, and son William on 24 March 1881. The 3 April 1881 Scottish census shows the family living at 1 Dixons Land, parish of Bothwell, county of Lanark. Family tradition says the family emigrated from Scotland later that year, on the ship the S.S. Majestic. They joined George’s father James in the coalfield of Bloss Township in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, United States of America. On 31 May 1884, at the age of 35 (sic), George became an American citizen by renouncing the Queen of Great Britain at the Tioga County Courthouse. For some reason, he claimed to have been in America since June 1870 when his parents had arrived, even though he was not shown  on the passenger list of the S.S. Australia. Several more children were born to George and Sara in Bloss Township: son Andrew on 17 December 1884, son Alexander in March 1887, son John in March 1889.  After moving to Houtzdale, son Wesley was born in October 1893.

The move to Houtzdale, in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, is confirmed in a land deed dated 20 October 1890, in which George and Sara purchased property co-owned by John Rading and several others. George and Sara later sold some of this land to the Altoona Phillipsburg Company, recorded in a deed dated 24 December 1894. George apparently found time to visit Scotland, as Ellis Island records indicate that a George Sinclair (age 51) returned from a visit to Carfin, the village in Bothwell Parish where his grandfather died in 1874, on the ship S.S. Lucania out of Liverpool, England. Perhaps he went to visit his older brother James, who is believed to be the only sibling who had remained in Scotland.

George and family are shown living in West Houtzdale, Woodward Township, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, in the federal census taken on 8 June 1900. George (age 52) is listed as a coal miner as are sons James (age 24), Robert (age 22), George Jr. (age 21), and William (age 19). The younger sons, Andrew (age 15), Alexander (age 13), John (age 11), and Wesley (age 6) are listed as “at school.”  Sara (age 48) and oldest daughter Mary (age 26) are not listed with any occupation, though they were presumably ‘keeping house’ as these records often state. The youngest daughter, Margaret (age 9) is also listed as being “at school.”

The next few years were not kind to the family. Son Alexander died, cause unknown, at age 15 on 8 May 1902. Sara died on 4 November 1905 at West Houtzdale, Clearfield County, PA, and was buried in Brisbin Cemetery. Her obituary in a local newspaper stated:  "Mrs. George Sinclair died at her home in Blain City, Sunday, Nov. 4, aged 53 years. She had been a sufferer from enlargement of the liver and had been sick eight weeks. She is survived by her husband and nine children." Daughter Mary, who had married Minot Stevens died, cause unknown, on 1 June 1906. The federal census taken on 20 April 1910, shows George and his three youngest children living in Blain City (near Houtzdale), Beccaria Township, Clearfield County. George (age 62) is listed as a laborer in a coal mine, son John (age 21) is listed as ‘brakeman,’ son Wesley (age 17) a ‘driver’ in a coal mine, and daughter Margaret (age 19) listed with no occupation.

There are two blurbs about George from the 4 September 1912 issue of The Agitator newspaper of Wellsboro, Tioga County. The first states that ‘Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Patterson, of Birmingham, Ala: George Sinclair, of Coalport, PA, and William Greenhaigh, of Blossburg, have been visiting Mr. and Mrs. Bower.’ The second says ‘Mrs Robert Lee died at her home in Maderia, Pa, August 23, aged 77 years – The remains were taken to Blossburg last week Monday evening and burial was made in the Odd Fellows’ cemetery. Rev. W. P. Miller conducted the service. Her nephews James Bell, Andrew Bell and George Wilkinson, of St. Benedict, and George Sinclair, of Coalport, accompanied the remains to Blossburg.’

The federal census taken 14 June 1920 shows George still living in his house in Blain City, Beccaria Township, Clearfield County, but the head of household now is his son in law, Glenn Fleckinger, who had married his daughter Margerat.  George (age 72) is listed as a laborer in a coal miner, Glenn (age 29) is a bookkeeper at a coal company, and Margaret (age 29) with no occupation. George died at the age of 81 at about 9 p.m. on 24 January 1930 in Beccaria Township, Clearfield County. He fell from a window, or the roof, of the house he was living in with his daughter Margaret and her husband Glenn. He was buried on 27 January 1930 with his wife, Sara, in Brisbin Cemetery. His 29 January 1930 obituary from The Houtzdale Citizen said he “was among the pioneer residents of West Houtzdale community.”  It further states that “The body of George Sinclair…..interred in the Brisbin cemetery. Deceased was an early resident of West Houtzdale and he died at the home of his daughter….He was aged eighty-one years and had been ill with complications several years. He is survived by the following: James, Robert, William, George, Wesley, John, and Margaret.”

According to his will, made on 7 December 1927, son Robert was made the executor of his estate. George’s house and property went to his daughter Margaret and her husband Glenn Fleckinger, while his money was divided equally among all his children. Amazingly enough, for an old gentleman who died during the Great Depression, George had a savings account at the First National Bank of Irvona with the amount of $1,362.34, a Certificate of Deposit (CD) in the First National Bank of Coalport for $1,050.00 with interest due of $15.75, for a grand total of $2,428.09. After various expenses, the amount remaining for distribution to his children was $1,752.60. Auditors’ notices, giving any outside claimants a chance to come forward were published on three successive weeks in September 1930 in The Clearfield Republican and The Raftsman’s Journal. According to the 3 November 1930 auditor’s report his eight surviving children were each to receive the amount of $210.64.

It was a long journey from Lanark to Clearfield. This hardworking immigrant coal miner from Scotland was able to leave a good financial legacy to his children and a more enduring legacy to his descendants, who live and exist in America today because of the decision he made to cross the Atlantic Ocean back in 1881.

By William John Shepherd (great great grandson) on 18 February 2009.



Clearfield County Court House
Clearfield County Historical Society
LDS Family History Library

     International Genealogical Index (IGI)
     Old Parochial Registers (OPR)
     Scottish Church Records on CD  

National Archives:

Census Records
     Passenger and Immigration Lists, New York

Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records

Scottish Record Office via Scottish Family Search

Census Records
     Civil Registration: Births, Marriages, Deaths
     Old Parochial Registers (OPR)

Tioga County Courthouse

Tioga County Historical Society

Thanks to William J. Shepherd for sending this in

Return to William's Index Page


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