The Porter Family

Robert Porter and his wife Elizabeth Reid Porter are the earliest Porter's known in our family line. They lived in Northern Ireland in the 1700's. They had a family of five, including son Robert Porter II. Robert Porter II married a woman named Esther Whyte. Robert II and Esther had a family of nine, including son James Robert Porter.

James Robert Porter married a woman named Rachel Alexander. Together they raised a family of seven, including John Reid, Robert (III?), David, Samuel, George, Nancy and Esther. Their son John Reid married Mary Wilkinson. Son Robert Porter married Jane Eliza Fisher. These two had a daughter Mary Polly Porter who married Samuel McBride.

Mary and Samuel had two children including Agnes Porter McBride and Thomas McBride. Agnes married Scriven John (John) Turner. Both George and Ruth Nisbet, as well as Bob and Jean Nisbet visited Agnes and John Turner in Harrow England outside of London. Agnes and John called themselves "chemists", which is the English way of referring to running a pharmacy. John died in the mid 1980's and no one has heard from Agnes after 1989.

Thomas McBride (1914 - ) was born in Muckrim, County Antrim, outside of Belfast. This is where his grandfather, Robert Porter lived on and off, and his father Samuel was born. When he was ten years old the family moved to Glen Gormley, and this has been his home since. Tom married Mona Pearl Britton Garratt (1916-1993) who was from Glen Gormley. Tom followed in his fathers footsteps by choosing the career of a builder. On October 1, 1939 Tom as commissioned into the Army and served during World War II. He was never wounded. Tom and Pearl had two children. The first was Samuel, born in 1948. Samuel married Gillian Heather Chambers and they have three children, Timothy (b. 1979), Rory (b. 1983), and Ryan (b. 1984). The second, Margaret Anne, was born in 1951, and married William John MaGinnes. They have one daughter, Victoria Anne, born in 1982.

Thomas and Pearl were visited by George and Ruth Nisbet, and later Bob and Jean Nisbet during their travels to Ireland and Scotland. Thomas and his daughter Margaret were visited by Deborah and Robert A. Nisbet Jr. in 1994. Thomas tells a story of his grandfather, Robert Porter having to journey to America to make his fortune before he could court and win the hand of his wife to be, Jane Eliza Fisher. He evidently did this in oil fields of Pennsylvania where his brother George also found some wealth, possibly selling his oil holdings to Rockefeller.

James Robert Porter and Rachel Alexander s son David Porter married Annie Glass. They had a family of five children including James, Benjamin, John, Rachel, and Minnie. James and John both moved to New Zealand where they had families. Benjamin (1883-1960) married Margaret Walker (died 1993). They stayed in North Ireland, and had a family of eight. Included in these children is Benjamin Porter (Jr.?) Who married Irene McWilliams (Rheny). Ben and Rheny still farm on the family farm in County Armaugh as of 1994. This farm is fifty acres, and includes sheep and suckling cows. Another child, Agnes Winifred Porter, was born in Bally Valley, Lough Gilly, County Armaugh, and married William John Wylie. They live in Bangor outside of Belfast. This couple had two children, Richard Wylie (b. 1963) and Allison Wylie (b. 1966). Allison has visited Ruth Nisbet in Vermont on a number of occasions. Another child, Marjorie, lives in Dublin, and married Roy Huber. Rachel Porter, another child of David Porter and Annie Gass, married David Graham. Rachel corresponded with her relatives in America.

James Robert Porter and Rachel Alexander s young son Samuel died as a child. Son George Porter moved to America as a teenager and is covered in the next biography. Nancy Porter did not marry, and lastly, daughter Esther White Porter married Alexander McKnight. Esther and Alexander raised a family of five including daughter Agnes McKnight. Agnes was a first cousin to Caroline Virginia Porter. The two visited in person and corresponded with each other. George and Ruth Nisbet also visited Agnes McKnight in Ireland. She has since died.

A map of Ireland used by George Nisbet circa 1975 lists Sam McKnight's "Maghadone" and Bob McKnight's "Killinkesy" northwest of Lough Neagh near Belfast. Sam and Bob were most likely the grandsons of Esther and Alexander McKnight. The map also lists Ben Porter's "Ballyvally" one and one half miles from Lough Gilly south of Lough Neagh.

Some of the nephews and nieces of George Porter emigrated from Ireland to Australia and New Zealand. Both Ruth and George Nisbet as well as Bob and Jean Nisbet visited these relatives during their lifetimes. The New Zealand relatives (second cousins to Bob Nisbet Sr.) include Maureen P. & Adolph C. Bruhn (died in 1983) of Christ Church, and Hester Millar (Essie) of the North Island.

 

George Porter

(1844 - 1917)

George was born in Armagh County, Northern Ireland. He was the son of James Robert Porter and Rachel Alexander.  George was reared in the strict doctrines of the Covenanter church, and enjoyed the best educational advantages which could be procured in a country district. He emigrated to Beaver Falls, Pa. when fourteen or fifteen (1860.. confirmed by census records) under the care of his kinsman David Gregg, who was returning to Pittsburgh.  George went immediately to the home of an uncle or cousin, a merchant in Beaver County, where he worked until 1864 in a grain store.. Several stories exist about how he came to America. His daughter Katherine Porter used to tell her daughter Virginia that George came to the U.S. when he was twelve and he ran away from home because he did not want to be a covenantor minister. He landed in NYC with seven dollars in his pocket, and walked to Oil City where he had a cousin in the oil supply business. Another story from Ruth Nisbet (obtained when she and George Nisbet visited Ireland) was that George was the smartest one in the family, and they pooled their resources to send him to the U.S. to establish himself. The exact truth we will never know.

In 1864 he came to Oil City, then booming with oil excitement.  He obtained a position as clerk in the hardware store of Robson & Company, one of the largest and wealthist firms in the oil regions.  One year later he was promoted to a junior partner and manager.  Around 1865 or 1866 a fire wiped out the Robson store and much of Oil City.  The town was rebuilt and George helped organize the volunteer fire department of the city.

George married Catherine (Kate) Rose Thropp in Valley Forge. They had two daughters, Katherine (b. 1871) and Virginia (b. 1874), who was born in Oil City.

In1874 the firm of Robson & Company was dissolved and George entered the oil business in Butler County. He joined with Robert M. Waugh in the firm of Waugh & Porter that operated extensively in the Pennsylvania oil fields in Butler,Bradford and McKean Counties, and in Richburg, New York. This firm owned a substantial share in the famous Great Leather Gusher at Chicorus, Butler County. It also developed the "sand pool" at Bolivar, NY. He traveled extensively introducing use of this form of fuel throughout much of the U.S.  A depression in the oil industry caused Waugh & Porter to stop drilling.  In 1890 he became Superintendent of South Penn's wells and production around Oil City.  He  was transferred to Bradford in 1897, and to Pittsburgh in 1902. There he also took over operation of properties formerly owned by the Forest Oil Company. After a number of ups and downs his wife asked for him to have a more stable position in the oil business, so he sold out to John D. Rockefeller. They were friends for a number of years. Rockefeller's drilling turned out to be all dry holes. South Penn is now known as Quaker State.

Oil city was so named to promote sales of real estate. It is about 75 miles north of Pittsburgh and 16 miles south of Titusville, where Drake's well brought oil into commercial production in 1859. The Oil Exchange there, established for the trading of certificates in property holdings and for the companies for many years "set" the world's prices for oil (as quoted in the Oil City Derrick, formerly the Times, that was owned by Andrew E. Cone. Andrew married Mary Thropp through whom George Porter met his wife Kate Rose Thropp).

When George moved to Pittsburgh he purchased a house at 151 Nagley Ave. It had a tower where George Porter had a retreat. Will Gates & Katherine were married in the parlor at Nagley Ave. George's wife Kate Rose Porter died of tuberculosis. Will Gates and his daughter Katherine moved into the house and lived with George Porter for the rest of his life.

George was a covenantor who later converted to be a Presbyterian. He eventually was an Elder in the Friendship and later East Liberty Presbyterian Church. He was a member of the Petrolia Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons of Oil City. He died at 9 AM 23 of April, 1917 after several months of lingering illness at his home, 151 South Nagley Avenue, East Liberty, Pittsburgh, Pa. One of the best known oil and pipe-line operators in the Eastern Oil fields, he was known for his sincerity of manner and manly traits of character by his wide circle of friends throughout the industry. George purchased a burial plot in the Homewood Cemetery in East Liberty. George Porter, daughter Caroline Virginia Porter Nisbet, Edward A. Nisbet, and William Gates are buried there.

 

Katherine Rose Thropp

(1845 - 1911)

Katherine Rose Thropp (Kate) was the daughter of Isaiah Thropp and Anna Virginia Workizer. She married at an early age Mr. George Porter, who is connected with the Standard Oil Company. His home was in Bradford, Pa. (later Pittsburgh). Mrs. Porter is a writer of both prose and poetry, but she greatly excels in the latter. Upon her death the family privately published a book of her poetry called "Poems." In it there are references to family members, and a poem titled "My Baby" written about the birth of her daughter, Caroline Virginia Porter on Easter weekend, 1874.

 

Katherine Amelia Porter

(1871 - 1961)

Katherine was the first daughter of George Porter and Katherine Rose Thropp,  and older sister to Caroline Virginia. George Porter wanted a son, but had two daughters, and decided his oldest daughter would be raised to think like a man. George and Katherine would ride out in a horse driven wagon with the payroll for the men, with Katherine carrying a shot gun across her lap. He taught her a great deal about the oil business. She was very sharp in mathematics and kept the company books for George Porter. She was very sharp in the stock market and spoke to her broker every morning after breakfast was over and was very successful. She was admitted to Mt. Holyoke College, but her father was hitting a string of dry oil wells at the time and funds were not available for her to go.

Katherine became the third wife of William Gates in 1910. They adopted a two year old girl who became Katherine Virginia Gates. Katherine was also a good stepmother to her stepson William. Katherine was a strict mother...the disciplinarian. Will was a reader and a student, and did not like controversy.

Later she studied and got her teaching certificate, was a teacher and became a principal of a school in Oil City. Katherine was a school teacher and administrator in the Pittsburgh public school system. George Porter asked her to give up her career to take her place in society. She became very active in volunteer work. She was on the board of the Presbyterian hospital. She was active in her church with the ladies missionary society and the ladies aide society. She was active in the auxiliary of the civil engineers society. She was an excellent bridge player.

Her curiosity about things kept her young. She would not tell everyone her age. She thought that if people knew her age they would say, don't ask her, she's too old. At a doctor's visit one time, she made her daughter leave the room before she would tell her doctor.

She loved to travel. Since she could not go to college, her father gave her a year in Europe. She and a friend spent much time in Italy studying art, and on the Isle of White (England). She made many trips to Europe with her Aunt Mary and Amelia. She crossed the Atlantic around fourteen times. George Porter took Caroline Virginia with him to Ireland, since she had never travelled to Europe.

Katherine had a tremendous curiosity about everything. After Will died she went to Florida by train every year to St. Petersburg. When she had her 70th birthday she decided she was going to fly to Florida. Without telling anyone she flew to Florida and called to tell the family she had her first airplane flight. She learned to drive at an early age. She never forgave her children for taking her car away from her.

Katherine and Caroline as widows lived together in Pittsburgh. When Katherine was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Virginia Bull persuaded them to move to Montclair and found an apartment for them. They were very loving sisters, and also very squabbling sisters. Caroline Virginia was very deaf, and Katherine's voice was very weak due to the Parkinson's. Caroline also used to think that her housekeeper has stolen her jewelry, yet when they checked they always found the jewels. They had a live-in nurse care for them for five years. Caroline then lived with her sons George in Vermont and Bob in Connecticut. Caroline's mind stayed sharp for most of her life. Katherine probably had Alzheimer's disease although they called it senile Parkinson's in those days. Caroline enjoyed her grandchildren very much.

 

William Gates

(1866 - 1935)

William Gates (Will) was born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. He met his first wife, Estelle Beers, while a student at Lehigh University. He lived at the Sun Inn and Estelle was the daughter of the innkeeper. Will graduated from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. with the degree of Civil Engineer in 1888. They had a son, William Jr. in 1893, however Estelle died within a few years. He remarried Jessie Burkhart from Detroit. Jessie died while giving child birth.

Will worked for the Redding railroad for one year. He was assistant chief engineer for H.C. Frick Coal Co. in Greensburg until his second wife died. William Gates was transferred to Pittsburgh by the H.C. Frick Coal Company, and finally became secretary of the company. He was well known by the people at U.S. Steel. He met Katherine Porter through her father, George Porter, as George and Will were both elders in the same church. George brought Will home for dinner one Sunday and he met Katherine who was a maiden lady of around thirty-five. They married shortly after.

In May, 1932 William wrote to his nephew, Robert Nisbet Sr. who was attending Lehigh. Robert was distraught over his load of classes, managing a fraternity business and other responsibilities. William shared the following quote with Robert to make him feel better, "Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due." He then wrote "Why pay unnecessary interest?"

William died from cancer of the liver. Right before he died he had a look of relief and joy on his face as if he knew his suffering would soon be over, or a view of a better place to come.

 

William Gates Jr.

(1893 - 1953)

William Gates Jr. was the first and only son of William Gates and Estelle Beers. He was raised by his grand mother in Kittanning, Pa. after his mother died, as his father traveled for work extensively. William Jr. was in high school when his father married Katherine A. Porter, and he lived with the newlyweds.

William Jr. had a good mind but was a poor student. Katherine had a Mr. Stieren to tutor William Jr. William Jr. attended Amherst College for two years, and then transferred to Harvard and graduated from Harvard College. He then entered Harvard law school and was married during that time. World War I came along, and he enlisted with the French esquadrille as an observer (not a flyer...he never liked airplanes). When America came into the war he joined the rainbow division. He fought in the trenches directing artillery. He was captured and was a prisoner of war in Germany. He learned to speak German quite fluently. The army asked him to stay on with the army of occupation after the war was over because of this skill. His oldest daughter was born while he was overseas.

One of Virginia Gate's first memories was William Jr. coming home from the war, stopping off in Pittsburgh before going to Boston. He had a mustache, that he quickly shaved off, and Virginia's cousin Robert A. Nisbet Sr. couldn't believe that it was the same man. William Sr. was always called Will, William Jr. always called William.

William married Helen P. Crossthwaite after World War I. They had five children including Virginia (died 1924), Dell (b. 1921), Katherine Elizabeth (b. 1924), Sally Joanne (b. 1929), and William III (b. 1931). William worked as a patent attorney for U.S. Rubber Company in Boston and lived in Needham, Massachusetts.

Katherine Virginia Gates

(1916 - 1995)

Virginia (Ginny) was born on March 28, 1916. Virginia Bull was adopted when she was two years old. They lived at 151 Nagley Ave. in her grandfather's house. When she was in kindergarten, her cousin Bob Nisbet walked her to school, helped her cross the street and walked her home. Bob was like an older brother to Ginny, and Ginny was like a sister to him.

Virginia's family and that of Edward and Caroline Nisbet were very close. They always spent holidays together, alternating houses where they would get together. Her Aunt Caroline Virginia Nisbet was a marvelous cook. Ginny loved to watch her cook and Caroline would show her how to make bread and cakes. She also had a loving relationship with her Uncle Ed. Uncle Ed had a big chair up in his den and Virginia was the only child allowed to sit in that chair. Virginia and Bob Nisbet would hide underneath Ed/Caroline's mahogany bed from Ed or older brother George Nisbet. Virginia talked Uncle Ed out of giving Bob a whipping from time to time.

When she was six, then the Gates family moved to Squirrel Hill, 1506 Beechwood Blvd. about ten miles from their previous location. She attended public grade school through the forth grade. In 1925 the Gates and Edward Nisbet families took a trip lastly several months to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. The ladies and children stayed on in France for a month longer than the men. The ladies wanted to purchase a French wardrobe. A tutor was hired for George Nisbet to learn to speak French. Bob Nisbet and Ginny were on their own to explore and play. They found a place that sold peanut butter, and they bought some long french bread, and loved to make french peanut butter sandwiches. They wandered around Paris at ages 9 and 13.

Bob Nisbet Sr. loved big band music. Ozzy and Harriet Nelson would come to a movie and stage show in downtown Pittsburgh. He would take Ginny when she was 12 and he was 16. Bob Sr. would set up double dates later...taught her how to dance, the latest steps. Ginny thought of him as a brother rather than a cousin. Ginny was sorry they could not stay close their whole lives.

For the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades her mother enrolled her in the Winchester private girls school. She was sent to a small girls boarding school in Tyron, Pa. for her high school years. She was accepted at Wellesley and Wells colleges. Her father persuaded her to go to Wells College. During her freshman year her father came down with cancer, and by the end of that year he had died. She decided that she was not returning to Wells, and transferred herself into Carnegie Tech. She knew she needed more skills than a straight liberal arts education. She lived at home and commuted to school. She graduated in secretarial studies with a B.S. degree and went to work for the University of Pittsburgh medical school.

The summer of her junior year she and her mother went on a trip to China to visit Will Gates nephew, Edwin. They joined a group intending to visit Japan, China, etc. On board the steam ship they met Mrs. Bull and her son Richard who had just graduated from Harvard. They fell in love on the ship. Only three days out to sea Japan invaded north China, and they could not visit Edwin in Peking. The Bulls persuaded them to meet them in Bombay, India, and Italy. They spent two weeks driving around Italy, then to Paris, and got a berth on the Queen Mary to return to the U.S.

The Bulls lived in Cleveland, so Virginia and Richard were able to see each other until they finally could get married. They were married December 30, 1939, and Virginia moved from Pittsburgh to Cleveland. Richard worked for the Sherman Williams company that his father had been a vice president of, and his brother worked for them also. He worked in the lab briefly, went to work in the offices as a clerk, and then a salesman in the raw materials area making $200 a month when they were married. They lived in Cleveland for six years. Sherman Williams transferred them to Montclair, New Jersey so Richard could run their export division after World War II. He then became district manager for the North Atlantic region and they lived there for eighteen years. Both of their children, Richard and Katherine were born in New Jersey.

Annabelle Nisbet, daughter of George and Ruth Nisbet, graduated from high school early, and her parents sent her to Switzerland to school for a while. Then she came to live with Ginny and Richard in Montclair, N.J. when she was 17 to go to a Catherine Gibbs business school for a year. They learned to like each other quite a bit, even thinking of Annabelle as another daughter. Annabelle stayed on in a job in New York, and would come out and visit.

The company made Richard President of Acme Paint in Detroit, and they lived in Detroit for five years. They brought him back to Cleveland as Executive Vice President. Shortly before he retired Richard became Vice Chairman of the Board of Sherman Williams.

Richard retired in February, 1979 and a few months later he and Virginia visited Arizona finding a place to rent for six months. They returned to Arizona several more times, renting, and finally purchased a house. In 1985 they decided to give up their large three story house in Cleveland. They built a house in Prescott, Arizona that they used as their summer home, returning to the Phoenix / Scottsdale area for the winters. Richard died of a heart attack in 1987. Since that time Virginia sold both of their houses in Arizona, and lives in a retirement complex in Scottsdale. Katherine suffered a stroke in 1992 or 1993 which limited some of her analytical ability. She died in March, 1995.

 

Richard Gordon Bull II

(1946 - 1989)

Richard was born in New Jersey in 1946. He graduated from Muskingham College in New Concord, Ohio, and went on to law school at Ohio Northern. He worked for a large law firm in Cleveland, but became disenchanted with the hierarchy of the company. He would have been happy to be a professional student. He decided to go for his M.B.A. at Northern Arizona University. Before that was finished he returned to Cleveland, and got a Masters in Library Science at Case University. He set up a law research firm in Cleveland that was quite successful.

He decided to try a similar business in Phoenix, but the conditions were not the same and it did not work out. He got a real estate license and worked for a firm, finding land that was suitable for commercial development. He really loved Arizona.

Richard was a confirmed bachelor. After he moved from Cleveland to Phoenix he was active in the singles group at their church. He met a lovely divorced woman with a young daughter in Scottsdale. They may have gotten married but he died in 1989 from a heart attack. The Bulls had serious heart problems throughout their family. At his memorial service the church was packed... he was very popular, and a very outgoing man. He was buried in Cleveland, however his friends in Scottsdale put up a memorial plaque at the church in his honor.

 

Katherine Virginia Bull

(1951 -

Katherine was born in New Jersey in 1951, and graduated from Muskingham College in New Concord, Ohio. Kathy went on to the Catherine Gibbs College. Katherine married Paul R. Baudisch, and they have one adopted child Andrew Paul Baudisch (b. 1991).