The McCarter Family

of Chester County, Pennsylvania

McCarter is utlimately Scots Gaelic in orgin. Claiming to be an older branch of the Clan Campbell, the McArthur Clan (also known as McCarter) acquired extensive territory in Argyll in the early 14th century for their support of Robert the Bruce.

In the 17th century, substantial numbers of Scottish families settled in the northern part of Ireland during the so-called Plantation of Ulster. Many Scottish families entered Ireland through the port of Derry and settled in the Foyle Valley which includes much of the fertile lands of Counties Derry, Donegal and Tyrone.

My McCarter ancestors departed the North of Ireland and arrived in America in 1803. They were Presbyterian Ulster Scots, or Scotch Irish, depending on the preferred term. Research reveals that the McCarters in Ulster in the late 18th century were clustered in the area of Londonderry, either in County Derry or slightly to the west in County Donegal.

Laura McCarter Null
Laura McCarter Null

I found the first clues on the McCarter family in this note written by my maternal grandmother, Pauline Null Henderson:

“I am anxious to know something of my McCarter ancestors who were Chester Countians. My mother, Laura McCarter Null was the daughter of Alexander Leslie McCarter and Harriet Ann Robinson, spelled Robison by some members of the family. Alexander McCarter was the son of Sarah McNeil and John McCarter. I have been told two of the McCarter men, I’m not sure whether they were brothers of Alexander or of his father John, had an academy at Faggs Manor.”

With this information as my starting point, I have since made considerable progress in learning about my McCarter ancestors. I discovered in the 1860 Federal Census of Chester County that John McCarter was born “on the sea” in 1803 and assumed that his birth was aboard a sailing vessel bound from Ireland to America, as the McCarter’s (and the McNeil’s) were Ulster Scots. The Upper Oxford 1835 Septennial Census lists David McCarter, Presbyterian minister, and John McCarter, farmer, as the only two McCarter’s in the township. As David McCarter (born 1807) had just graduated from The Western Theological Seminary in 1835, I believe that he was living with his married brother John at the time of this Pennsylvania census.

A bequest for the benefit of David McCarter was found in the will of John Parke, schoolmaster (written 20 June 1818 and proven 10 Nov 1820): “I give to the decriped son of Mrs. McCarter who lost his leg, fifty dollars for his education to be deposited in the hands of the overseers of the poor of said county, which shall never to be trusted in the hands of his profligate father.” The will states that the payment of this bequest was to be made two years after the death of John Parke and the estate administration papers indicate that the payment was made at the direction of “the overseers of the poor”.

Digging deeper, I found a record of Poor School Children which disclosed the following:

  • 1818 McCarter, Robert Loxf David, 10
  • 1831 McCarter, Samuel WCln James 8, John 6
  • 1832 McCarter, Samuel WCln James 9, John 7
  • 1834 McCarter, Samuel WCln Margaret Ann 7, Samuel 6
  • 1834 McCarter, xxx UOxf D.T. 7, W. I. 6
  • 1835 McCarter, xxx UOxf David T. 8, William 6

The “McCarter, xxx” is John McCarter, my direct ancestor, and “McCarter, Samuel” is evidently the Samuel McCarter listed as marrying Sarah Cunningham on 16 Nov 1816 in the Memoranda for Sessional Records of Faggs Manor Congregation. David is probably a brother of John and Samuel and, if so, they are all the sons of Robert McCarter.


The Franklin County, Ohio 1880 Federal Census enumeration for David McCarter reveals that his father and mother were born in Ireland. Thus, it appears that my ancestor John McCarter was in fact born “on the sea”, the son of Robert McCarter and his wife during their passage to America.

Rev. David McCarter
Rev. David McCarter

David McCarter was born in Chester County on 16 April 1807, lost his right leg in an accident when he was about 12 years old, was educated at Columbia University in New York City and The Western Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1838.

Rev. McCarter is listed as a 42 year old clergyman in the 1850 Federal Census of the Borough of Strasburg in Lancaster County. At that time, he was the principal of Strasburg Academy with a staff of twelve people, including a music teacher, a languages teacher, another teacher and a cook. I am pleased to note that my grandmother’s memory was at least partially right on this matter. She left many fine clues that have greatly assisted my research.

Through the help of several researchers in Lancaster County, I now know the rest of the story. Here are quotes from the book “They Called It Strasburg – 18th & 19th Centuries” by Charles D. Spotts:

“The Rev. David McCarter, who founded what is supposed to have been the third academy in Strasburg borough, was born in Chester county, Pa., about the year 1807. At the early age of twelve, he lost his right leg in an accident. He was graduated from an institution of higher learning at Allegheny. In 1837, at the age of thirty, he was a licentiate of the New Castle Presbytery; and on June 3rd, 1837, was installed pastor of the Presbyterian church, Strasburg. In 1838, the congregation numbered about 78 members. Strasburg was then in New Castle Presbytery. In 1839, he was pastor of the churches at Strasburg and Union.

In May, 1839, he founded an institution known as the Strasburg Academy, which he conducted successfully for a period of fourteen years. He acquired quite a reputation as a teacher. Ever a strict disciplinarian, he was able to control boys. Parents of incorrigible children sought his school in which to enter their unruly sons.

In 1843, Strasburg was united with Donegal Presbytery and Mr. McCarter continued as its pastor. His relation with the Strasburg church was dissolved December 7th, 1847. The following year, his name appears in the Minutes of General Assembly as “Principal of Strasburg Academy.” It is quite evident that he continued in charge of the academy after he had relinquished the care of the church. His name appears in the Assembly Minutes, as “Teacher of Academy”, for several years thereafter.

About the year 1852, the school began to decline. In March of the following year, Mr. McCarter sold the house and lot, known as the Strasburg Academy, to Michael Pray, of Philadelphia. About this time, also, he disposed of his other real estate in Strasburg.

In 1857, he was connected with the Liberty church, Delaware, Ohio, and continued in charge until 1860. For three or four years after this, he was president of a Presbyterian female college at Delaware. After severing his connection with this institution, Mr. McCarter preached in the vicinity of Delaware for several years; and, in 1863, went to Columbus, Ohio, where he conducted private schools for several years. Here he spent the remainder of his days, supplying churches, among them being Genoa, Grove City, Hamilton and Sciota. For the last ten years of his life he was not actively engaged in ministerial work, his health not permitting. He died, of a stroke of paralysis, on December 29th, 1884, aged 78 years.”


Why did the McCarter’s leave Ireland in 1803?

A possible reason may have been the aftermath of the Rebellion of 1798.

Led by the Scots-Irish Presbyterians of Ulster, a political and cultural movement of Protestant Dissenters and Catholics known as the United Irishmen developed near the end of the eighteenth century to establish on the whole island a democratic Irish Republic. The United Irishmen were encouraged by the success of the American Revolution in which Scots-Irish settlers played a leading role as political strategists and combatants against the British. Thus inspired, the United Irishmen in Ireland demanded justice in the face of severe religious and political discrimination leveled against them by the Crown. Efforts of the United Irishmen culminated in the Rebellion of 1798, one of the bloodiest in Irish history, in which the United Irishmen were soundly defeated and the movement’s leaders executed.

McCarter Family Chronology

  • 1803 – John McCarter, born “on the sea”
  • 1807 – Sarah McNeil, dau. of Andrew and Margery McNeil, born
  • 1807 – David McCarter, brother of John, born 16 April
  • 1824 – John McCarter, married Sarah McNeil 19 April
  • 1825 – John McCarter, taxed in Lower Oxford – married and landless
  • 1825 – Andrew McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1828 – David T. McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1830 – William James McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1832 – John Y. McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1835 – John McCarter, purchased land from Andrew McNeil Jr. in Upper Oxford.
  • 1835 – John McCarter, listed in Septennial Census as a farmer in Upper Oxford
  • 1835 – David McCarter, listed in Septennial Census as a Presb. Minister in Upper Oxford
  • 1835 – Alexander Leslie McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1835 – John McCarter purchased land in Upper Oxford from Andrew McNeil, Jr.
  • 1837 – Samuel H. McCarter, son of John and Sarah, born
  • 1842 – John McCarter, in Septennial Census
  • 1842 – Sarah A. McCarter, daughter of John and Sarah, born
  • 1844 – Susanna M. McCarter, daughter of John and Sarah, born
  • 1847 – Emma McCarter, daughter of John and Sarah, born
  • 1856 – Alexander L. McCarter married Harriet Ann Robinson 6 Nov
  • 1860 – Laura Ellen McCarter, dau. of Alexander & Harriet, born 6 July
  • 1879 – Sarah McNeil McCarter, died in Cecil Cnty, Md

Index of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors From Chester County – Compiled by Douglas R. Harper . . . McCarter, Andrew – Co. C, 43rd PVM; McCarter, John Y. – Co. C, 97 Pa.; McCarter, Samuel H. – Co. C, 124 Pa. PVM; McCarter, William J. – Co. K, 97th Pa.


Newspaper Announcements

4 April 1824 Chester County Pennsylvania VILLAGE RECORD: “On Monday the 19th inst. by the Rev. Robert White, Mr. John McCarter, to the much admired Miss Sarah McNeil, daughter of Maj. Andrew McNeil, all of Upper Oxford, Chester county.”

2 December 1856 Chester County Pennsylvania VILLAGE RECORD: “Marriage on the 6th ult., by the Rev T.B. Miller, Mr. Alexander L. McCarter, of Lower Oxford Township, Chester county, to Miss Harriet Ann Robinson, of East Nottingham township, Chester Cnty, Pa.”


The Lineage

1. Robert McCARTER

2. John McCARTER – b. abt 1803 “On The Sea” – d. bef. 1867 – m. Sarah McNEIL – b. abt 1807 Chester Cnty, PA – d. Aug 1879 Chester Cnty, PA

3. Alexander Leslie McCARTER – b. abt 1835 – d. abt 1896 Phila., PA – m. Harriet Ann ROBINSON – b. 5 Aug 1834 Chester Cnty, PA – d. 28 Feb 1922 Wilmington, DE

4. Laura Ellen McCARTER – b. 6 Jul 1860 Chester Cnty, PA – d. 28 Sep 1942 Fairmont, WV – m. Ashmore Pusey NULL – b. 16 May 1852 Lancaster Cnty, PA – d. 8 Jul 1940 Fairmont, WV

5. Ivy Pauline NULL- b. 26 Nov 1885 Christiania, PA – d. Mar 1969, Fairmont, WV – m. Edward Foster HENDERSON – b. 16 Oct 1881 Pocomoke City, MD – d. 20 May 1944, Fairmont, WV

6. Laura Jane HENDERSON – b. 3 Jan 1915 Fairmont, WV – m. Edward C. JONES, Jr. b. 6 Mar 1899 Hambleton, WV – d. 31 Dec 1978 Sarasota, FL

7. David Henderson JONES, Sr. – m. Mary T. MAY

8. David Henderson JONES, Jr.


McCarter Family Genealogy Reports

John McCarter

Alexander McCarter

Laura Ella McCarter

Laura McCarter Null and David H. Jones, Sr. about 1941
Laura McCarter Null and David H. Jones, Sr. about 1941

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Updated 26 December 2010