William Blair was the son of Alexander Blair, son of John Blair, of County Armah. Ulster, Ireland. Alexander came to America in the first quarter of eighteenth century, making his home seven miles from Lancaster, Pa. There he grew to manhood, and married Elizabeth Cochran, of Scotch-Irish lineage; and while they were still residents of that locality their son William was born, in 1760. Ten years later they were residents of Cumberland county, near the mouth of the Juniata. The names of Alexander Blair and his sons, John, Thomas, and William, are on the military rolls of Pennsylvania as soldiers of the American Revolution.
In the office of the clerk of the county commissioners' court of Schuyler county, Illinois, under date of Sept. 3, 1832, is found the "Declaration of William Blair, in order to obtain the benefit of the pension act of Congress, passed June 7, 1832." This gives a detailed account of his services in the Revolutionary War. The matter is found briefly stated in the "Year Book” 1901, of the Iowa Society of the Sons of the American Revolution: "Alexander Blair is on the Pennsylvania rolls as a private soldier in the Revolutionary War, from Cumberland county, having entered at Carlisle in 1778."
William Blair, under age in 1778, served as his father's substitute, under Captain George Bell, two months at Bald Eagle and Penn's Valley, Pa. He reenlisted May, 1779, for five months in Captain Henry Dougherty's company, and served under General John Sullivan in the campaign against British, Tories, and Indians in New York, and was permanently disabled at the battle of Chemung, but rejoined and was mustered out with his regiment. Again he enlisted. June, 1780, in Captain Gilbert McCoy’s Rangers, and served on the frontier until discharged in January, 1781. From this "declaration" we learn that he was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, in 1760, and was seventy-two years old when application for pension was made. Also that when enlisting as a "Pathfinder of the Revolution" under General Sullivan, he received ten dollars bounty. Later he was paid for the entire service in depreciated currency.
When he took his father's place in the service, two brothers had already been in service. Lieutenant John Blair was under General Irvine, and a prisoner at Quebec. Captain Thomas Blair was wounded at Gulf Mills, near Valley Forge, and carried an ounce ball in his shoulder for life. But before the Blairs were soldiers they were pioneers. At the close of the French and Indian war they left their Lancaster county home and settled on the Juniata River, and were tax-payers in Cumberland county from 1770 until 1782. At the close of his Revolutionary service William Blair married, before he had attained his majority, Catherine, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Rutledge) Evans. Very soon thereafter they migrated by pack-horse over the mountains to Westmoreland county, then including much of the western part of the State. A year or two later the removal to Kentucky occurred, floating down the Ohio from Fort Pitt to the mouth of the Limestone. At Cane Ridge, Bourbon county, Ky., a fort or station was built for protection against marauding Indians, in which the families of Alexander Blair, his son William, and his son-in-law James H. Manara found shelter for some years. Both Mr. Blair and his brother-in-law, Manara, took active part in the forays into the Indian country in those troublesome days. And other troubles followed — disturbances by ambitious party leaders, insecure land titles, and above all, the great influx of slaves and the attendant evils.
In 1797 Blair and Manara removed to the Northwest Territory, making settlement near Chillicothe. Here Mr. Blair raised his family, and here his wife died in 1817, leaving ten children. Four of his sons took part in the War of 1812. He removed to Flat Rock, Ind., in 1820, and remained two or three years, thence to Sangamon county, Illinois, and later to Schuyler county, perhaps in 1827. In the winter of 1837-38 he came to Iowa, making his home in the northern part of this county, and died there in 1840. He is remembered by few of the present inhabitants. He is not known to have visited Burlington after passing through to his Round Prairie home. In 1839 the citizens invited him to celebrate the Fourth of July with them, and the late Hon. W. C. McCash went with a carriage for him, but he was unable to attend, though highly appreciating the proffered honor.
He was a member of the Presbyterian church, and in Ohio and Illinois, at least, was a ruling elder in that denomination. Although not permitted by age and feebleness to do much directly in the making of Iowa, his descendants have not been so limited. Of his nine children who reared families, each family has, sometime, somewhere, been represented here, and some of them remain. But this representation is not confined to Iowa. Descendants are to be found in at least twenty-three of the commonwealths of our nation, reaching from Connecticut to California, Washington city to the State of Washington, and from Minnesota and Dakota to Texas. His grave is about three miles northeast of Kossuth, and he was the first adult buried there.
In recent years descendants of William Blair erected over his grave in Round Prairie cemetery a fine granite monument, bearing the following inscription:
Born, Lancaster Co., Pa., 1760.
Died, Des Moines Co., Iowa, 1840.
A Soldier of the American Revolution.
An Elder in the Presbyterian Church.
A Pioneer in Pa., Ky., Ohio, Ind., Ill., Iowa.
His second son, Hon. Thomas Blair, legislator of Iowa when this State formed a part of the Territory of Wisconsin, and a pioneer whose labors proved a very important element in the upbuilding of this section of the State, was born in the fort in Bourbon county, Kentucky, May 5, 1789. Thomas Blair began his pioneering by walking all the way from the old home in Kentucky to the new home in Ohio. In 1812 and 1813 he served his country as a soldier in the second war with England as did three of his brothers, defending the northern frontier. After the war was over, in 1816, he married Miss Margaret Job, who was born in Baltimore, MD., Oct. 13, 1788, and was a daughter of Morris and Lydia (Bond) Job. Morris Job, was, with his father. Archibald and brothers, Daniel and Thomas disowned by the Friends Meeting for participation in the Revolutionary War.
In 1816 Thomas Blair removed to Flat Rock, Ind., and in 1821 to Morgan county, Illinois. Later he crossed the river into Pike county, Illinois, was a commissioner for the organization of Schuyler county, and was elected a member and chairman of the first board of county commissioners. Still seeking a better country, he came to Des Moines county, Iowa, in 1834, and in the following spring settled in Round Prairie, where he made his home throughout his remaining days. He and his family are counted in the first census (1836) of the Iowa district of Wisconsin Territory. In 1836 he represented Des Moines county in the first Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, and two years later was a member of the Territorial Legislature of Iowa. Members of the first Legislature of Wisconsin were: Council, Jeremiah Smith, Jr., Jesse Bartlett Teas, and Arthur B. Ingram: House, Isaac Leffler, Thomas Blair, Warren S. Jenkins, John Box, G. W. Teas, Eli Reynolds, and David R. Chance. Major Jerry Smith was a merchant: Major Bartlett Teas was a lawyer; Colonel Ingram was a farmer, and had been a member of the Virginia Legislature: Colonel Leffler was a farmer and lawyer, and had been the colleague of John Tyler in the United States Senate from Virginia, and with him resigned on account of the "expunging resolutions" trouble; Blair was a farmer: Jenkins was a physician; so was G. W. Teas, and also a Methodist preacher; Box and Chance were Campbellite preachers; Reynolds was a physician. Blair served at Belmont, at the adjourned meeting at Burlington, at the called meeting at the same place. June 1, 1838, and the first Iowa Territorial Legislature. After his retirement from the Iowa Legislature Mr. Blair took no prominent part in political affairs. He was originally an Anti-slavery Whig, and upon the organization of the new Republican party to prevent the further extension of slavery, he became one of its stanch and stalwart advocates. In religious faith he was a Presbyterian, and for more than fifty years a ruling elder in that church. He was one of the first session of the church at Rushville, Ill. From the time of his retirement from public life his attention was given in undivided manner to his farming interests until the infirmities of old age became too great for him to take an active part in agricultural life. His later years were spent quietly in his country home, ever striving for the best interests of his neighborhood, its churches and its schools. He died on a part of the farm which had been his first home west of the river, near Kossuth, Oct. 6, 1875.
David Evans Blair, was born March 25, 1793, near Paris, Bourbon county, Ky. He was the fourth son of William and Catherine (Evans) Blair, natives of Pennsylvania, who had migrated to Kentucky nine or ten years previously. When he was between four and five years old, the family removed to Northwest Territory, settling near Chillicothe. He grew to manhood here, and Sept. 9, 1819, in Fayette county, Ohio, married Sarah Job, daughter of Morris and Lydia (Bond) Job, of Baltimore, Md., and immediately emigrated to Flat Rock, Ind., and two years later to Illinois. After a brief stay in Morgan county he crossed over to the Military Tract, Pike county. In 1824, when Edward Coles made his great fight against a convention to legalize slavery, he, with his brother Thomas, traveled to Atlas by canoe and on foot, camping out by the way, a round trip of one hundred and twenty miles, to vote "no convention."
On the organization of Schuyler county he was elected the first county assessor. He was county treasurer in 1827, and as such entered the land for a county seat on which Rushville is built. He carried the silver to Springfield, fifty miles, on horseback, and the records show he was paid two dollars and fifty cents for the service.
He was a claim-maker in the "new purchase" as early as 1834, and brought his family here. May 8, 1836, while it was yet Michigan Territory. During claim days he was an "arbitrator," and aided much in enforcing claim laws in the region between Flint River and the Iowa; and at the land sales in 1838 was "bidder," and as such bought all settlers' claims sold at that time in Huron and Yellow Springs townships.
He was a member of the Iowa Territorial House of Representatives in 1841 and 1842, and also in the first General Assembly of the State of Iowa in 1846. He was always Whig and Republican in politics, and was a member and office bearer in the Presbyterian church. He died at his home, near Kossuth, Oct. 9, 1874.
Of the descendants of Thomas Blair there remain in Des Moines county, Mrs. Elizabeth Reed, Miss Margaret Rankin, Miss Martha Catherine Rankin, grand-daughters, and Archibald Reed, a great-grandson. All live in Kossuth. Of the family of D. E. Blair, the youngest son, Morris William Blair, resides on the old homestead. According to tradition his uneventful career began in Pike county, Illinois, west half, southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 2 north, 1 west, fourth principal meridian. He was brought to Michigan Territory May 8, 1836, and two days later to his present residence, from which he has never been absent for ten months in the sixty-nine years since, having purchased the farm at his father's death. Here he worked, as farmers do, in summer and attended school in winter. He was a student in the academy at Kossuth in 1845 and 1846, and in 1847-48 was in Des Moines College, an institution in West Point, Lee county, short-lived, but helping in the education of Rev. W. Wright, Kansas; Rev. Father Clement Lowry, Texas; Hon. W. E. Hepburn; the late Hon. Samuel M. Clark, and others. Later he kept school several winters. He has long been connected with the official administration of the schools of the neighborhood. As township clerk for Yellow Springs he was ex-official secretary of the township board, and when Kossuth became an independent district, became its secretary, later became its treasurer, and is beginning his thirty-fourth consecutive term in that office. He was also treasurer of Kossuth Academy. In 1862 he was appointed division assessor of internal revenue for Des Moines county on the recommendation of Thomas Hedge, Sr., and endorsed by Senators Grimes and Harlan, without solicitation or prior knowledge on his part. He resigned March 31, 1865, his farming interests requiring his entire attention.
He began voting the Republican ticket about 1854, and has continued to do so "early and often" ever since, having missed but one election. He has no social or business affiliations except membership in the Society of the Scotch-Irish in America, and that of the Sons of the American Revolution, in the latter tracing eligibility to membership from every ancestor liable to military duty at the time of the war for independence.