Ohio Biographies

Dr. William McCreary Voris

In considering the pioneers of Adams County, Ohio, there is none whose memory deserves more to be praised. It has been sixty-four years past since his life here terminated, and his death amounted to almost a tragedy; yet, in his time, he was of the most highly esteemed, and most deserving of it. Like most of the pioneers of Adams County, he had an ancestry which could be traced back over two hundred years. The family was Dutch.

Stephen Coerte Van Voris emigrated from Holland in April, 1660. and settled at Flat Lands, Long Island, where, on the twenty-ninth of November, 1660, he purchased corn land, plain land and salt meadow, with house and lot, for three thousand guilders. He was a prominent and useful man, a member of the Dutch Church, and a magistrate. He died at Flat Lands, February 16, 1684. Of his numerous descendants, Rolyff Van Vorhees, born in 1742, and married to Elizabeth Nevins, was the first to drop the Van and write the name Voris. Roloff's son, Ralph, born August 5, 1775, married in Pennsylvania, near Conewago, Margaret McCreary, of Scotch parentage. This Ralph Voris removed to Paris, Kentucky, but not liking it there, moved to Red Oak, in Brown County, Ohio, where he was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church from 1807 until his death in 1840.

This Ralph Voris was the father of Dr. William McCreary Voris, the subject of our sketch, who was born in Kentucky, August 5, 1801. When he grew up he studied medicine and graduated as a physician at the Medical College, at Lexington, Kentucky.

He located at West Union, Ohio, to practice his profession, about 1824, and joined the Presbyterian Church there. On April 24. 1827, he married the only daughter of Col. John Means, Elizabeth Williamson Means, and they went to housekeeping in West Union. Ohio, on the south east corner of Main and Market Streets, in what is known as the James Hood property, and there they resided until January, 1832, when they removed to the old Brush Creek Forge. There the Doctor was engaged in making iron and hollow ware, till the fourth of June, 1835.

In 1830, he was made an elder in the Presbyterian Church at West Union, Ohio, in which capacity he continued to serve until his death.

In May, 1835, Alex. Mitchell, aged thirty, the father of Mrs. Samuel Burwell, was living on Ohio Brush Creek between the Forge and the mouth of the creek. He was operating a saw mill and a grist mill. He and Dr. Voris, then aged thirty-four, arranged it between them to load a flat-boat, half with iron and hollow ware, and half with lumber, and float it down to Cincinnati, and sell the cargo. They did so and floated the boat from the Forge to Mitchell's mill, where the lumber was put in, and thence they floated it to the Ohio River. Dr. Voris and Alex. Mitchell went in the boat as far as Maysville, Kentucky, where they landed for repairs to the boat. There Alexander Mitchell was taken down with the dread Asiatic cholera, and died and was buried. Dr. Voris left the boat and went on to Cincinnati by a steamboat, and had scarcely arrived there, when he, too, was stricken with the Asiatic cholera, and died within a few hours.

In those days, such was the fear of the dread scourge, that when a person died of it, there was none of the usual funeral ceremonies, but the body was buried within a few hours after death, and at the most convenient spot to where death had overtaken the victim. Such was the case with Alexander Mitchell, but not with Dr. Voris. When the news of the latter's death was brought to his wife, she was so overwhelmed with grief, that she sat as one dumb for six weeks.

The attachment between her and her husband was of the most devoted character. Aside from the estimate of Dr. Voris by his family and friends, he was most highly esteemed by the community in which he resided. Like St. Luke, he was, in his social circle, the "Beloved physician," and his death produced a shock which is remembered to this day by those who were living at that time.

The pleasant home at the Forge was broken up, and, with her two little girls, his wife returned to the home of her father, Col. John Means, where A. V. Hutson now lives, on the Maysville Turnpike, just west of Bentonville, where she resided during her widowhood. Mrs. Voris was a woman of lovely Christian character, and was one of the saints upon earth. She belonged to families, both on her father's and mother's side, which could boast of a long line of honorable ancestry, distinguished for their adherence to high principles. Her father left South Carolina with twenty-four slaves in order to give them their freedom in Ohio, and her uncle, the Rev. William Williamson, her mother's brother, brought twenty-seven slaves from South Carolina to Ohio, in 1803, in order to give them their freedom. She was of the material of which the martyrs are made, and had she been condemned to have gone to the stake for conscience' sake, she would have gone with a smile on her face, and perfect peace in her heart.

In 1842, she married the Rev. Dyer Burgess, and he and she removed to Washington County, and for twenty years they lived together at Warren, six miles from Marietta. Rev. Burgess died September 2, 1872, at the age of eighty-eight. After his death she ypent the remaining seventeen years of her life in Marietta, Ohio, with her daughter, Mrs. Wm. P. Cutler. She fell asleep February 28, 1889, in the ninetieth year of her age, having survived the husband of her youth fifty-four years. In a memorial of her, it was said she united with the Presbyterian Church in youth, and as the years passed, her character and life developed into the rarest beauty and symmetry. She gave liberally to all good subjects, from the promptings of a heart overflowing with sympathy and love. She was always active in doing good. She was charitable in her judgments, and her amiability and cheerfulness and childish faith scattered sunbeams wherever she was. Her life was a blessing to all who knew her. Doctor Voris left three children. The eldest was Anne Eliza, born February 26, 1828, married to the Rev. James S. Poage and deceased in 1848. leaving a daughter of tender years, who was reared by her grandmother, Mrs. Burgess. The second daughter, Elizabeth Williamson, was born July 25, 1832. She married the Hon. Win. P. Cutler, of Marietta, one of the most prominent citizens of the State. He was a member of three Legislatures in this State and Speaker of the House in one. He was a member of the Thirty-seventh Congress and was mainly instrumental in the construction of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad. To his daughter, Miss, Sarah J. Cutler, we are mainly indebted for the facts of this sketch.

The third daughter of Dr. Voris, Margaret Jane Williamson, was posthumous, born August 1, 1835. She married Mr. Henry Humiston. and lives in Chicago. She has two sons. One of the Sparks boys of West Union was with Dr. Voris when he died. His body was brought to Manchester, Ohio and there interred.


From "History of Adams County, Ohio from its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time" - by Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers - West Union, Ohio - Published by E. B. Stivers - 1900