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Below is a family biography included in the Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania published in 1905 by The Genealogical Publishing Company.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JOSEPH McCORD MEANS, known as “McCord Means,” the tenth child of a family of thirteen born to Joseph McCord Means, known as “Squire Means,” and Jane Woods, his wife, was born at Newburg, Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, May 22, 1834, being the third child of this name in this family. The first of this name was drowned in his third year and the second lived but three months. John, his eldest brother, died in early manhood unmarried. Three brothers died in infancy. The nine remaining children, five boys and four girls, lived to maturity, married and raised families, and remained within the limits of Cumberland and Franklin counties, Pennsylvania.

The tradition that has passed from one generation to the next among the descendants of John Means, who is said to have settled in Bucks county, Pa., about the year 1720, that three Means brothers came to this country from Ireland together and settled in what was then one of the three counties that William Penn organized in 1682, seems to be confirmed by the records of Bucks and Dauphin counties. Pa. It is probable that they were of the second colony of Scotch-Irish that landed at Boston in the year 1718 — the first, known as the Londonderry colony of 319 families, which sailed in five vessels from Londonderry, Ireland, in March of that year; the second colony landed at Boston Oct. 14, 1718. It is known that some of these colonists settled in Pennsylvania after having wintered at Boston and it seems probable that the Means brothers were among the latter colony. George Means, of Clarion county, Pa., wrote in 1853 that John Means and family of children came from County Fermanagh, Ireland, It is now known that John Means died near Makefield, Bucks Co., Pa., in 1739, and Hugh Means died near Bensalem, in same county, in 1745, and Samuel Means died in Dauphin Co., Pa., in 1746. Robert Means, who also came over in 1718 and wintered at Falmouth, now Portland, Maine, and died at Old Orchard, Maine, Dec. 29, 1769, in his eightieth year, may have been another brother, but the relationship cannot now be ascertained.

The will of Samuel Means was probated in Harrisburg, Pa., March 9, 1746. It mentions his wife Grizzle, who is made one of the executors, his daughters Nellie, Margaret, Jane and Isabella, and his sons Andrew, Samuel, Adam and John. There is a tradition in this family that two girls, Martha and Mary Means, were captured by the Indians. The men of the family were all away at the time; the home was burned and an infant child of one of the sisters was dashed to pieces before their eyes. The mother could not travel fast enough and she was cruelly put to death. The sisters were compelled to marry Indians who entertained themselves and their friends by hearing the sisters sing. They often sang the 137th Psalm, which is very applicable to their case. One task imposed upon them was the gathering of wood, which enabled them to leave camp for some time. They finally conceived the idea of escaping by means of this absence. They built a rude shelter of branches, and every time they went out carried something along, staying away a little longer than usual and making some excuse on their return until at last they escaped and in time came back to their own people. These names are not mentioned in Samuels will. Samuel Means died Feb. 26, 1746, and his wife Grizzle in November of the same year. John Means, the youngest child of this couple, and the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born in 1745. He married Martha Ramsay, one of the first members of Donegal Church, lived in Dauphin county, Pa., and died Oct. 3, 1795, and is buried in the church-yard at Paxton, near Harrisburg, and his grave is marked with a tombstone. In 1798 his widow moved to a farm near Library, Allegheny county, Pa., and died Sept. 13, 1849, aged nearly ninety-eight years.

The will of John Means is on record in Dauphin county, Pa. He was one of the subscribers to the first church built at Paxton (Peixtan, Peshtank) or Paxtang). He was known as “John Means of Swatara.” He was a private in Capt. Joseph Sherer’s Company, of Col. James Burd’s Battalion of the organized “Associators” of Lancaster county, Pa., which Company was in active service during the whole of the spring and summer campaign of 1776, and a number of the men were wounded in a skirmish with a party of British Cavalry near Amboy, N. J. [Pa. Archives, 2d Series, Vol. XIII, 309-10.] He was a private in the Company of Capt. John Murray of Paxtang township, of the Second Battalion — Lieutenant Col. Daniel Broadhead’s — of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, which took part in the battle of Long Island, Aug. 27, 1776. [Pa. Archives, 2d Series, Vol. X, 193-219.] He was at home in 1778 and took and signed the oath of Allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania, prescribed by the Act of Assembly of June 13, 1777. [Pa. Archives, 2d Series, Vol. XIII, 395-6.] Subsequently he was a member of Capt. Samuel Cochran’s Company of the Tenth — Col. Robert Elder’s — Battalion of Lancaster county, Pa. Militia. [Pa. Archives, 2d Series, Vol. XIII, 387-9.] In 1781 he enlisted in Capt. Campbell’s Company of the Pennsylvania Line, and formed part of Col. Thomas Craig’s detachment, which marched for Yorktown, Va., in the fall of 1781, and thence to Georgia and North Carolina, taking part in Gen. Greene’s southern campaign of 1782, and returning by sea to Pennsylvania in 1783. [Pa. Archives, 2d Series, Vol. X, 382-390.]

Joseph McCord Means, the youngest child of “John Means of Swatara,” and the father of the subject of this sketch, was born Feb. 10, 1796. His history is related in the sketch in this publication entitled James Ramsey Means. Such were the antecedents of the Means family of Cumberland county, Pa. — men and women of Scotch-Irish lineage and Presbyterian faith.

The early education of McCord Means was such as could be obtained in the public school of his native village. Born in the year the “Common School” Act was passed, it is not strange that at his arrival at school age such an institution should be found in a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian community. The building — octagonal in shape — is still standing in Newburg. Originally the pupils sat facing the outer wall, but later this was changed and the pupils sat facing inward with a writing desk in front — the smaller children being seated on low benches within. Here, when not engaged in grinding bark in his father’s tanyard, Mr. Means gained some knowledge and the rudiments of an education. The school generation of to-day can form little correct idea of the conditions surrounding village life even so limited a number of years ago. The shoemaker came to the home, took his measures, and made the shoes, his bench being placed in the kitchen. The clothing was made from what they called “thick cloth.” The wool, after being carded at the mill into rolls, was spun into yarn and woven into cloth by his mother and sisters. Four miles away, at Middle Spring, was the church. In good weather he and his brothers walked to church. He says, “It was not safe not to listen to the sermon when there, as father always examined us on where the text was and how many heads Rev. John Moodey divided his sermon into and what he said on firstly, secondly, etc., until he got through.” The father’s training, the pastor’s teaching and the pious mother’s example, with the blessing of the Spirit, led Mr. Means to unite with this church at an early age and he has remained a member of this denomination to this day. That with these early settlers, the fact that their religion, although perhaps stern and in keeping with the difficulties of their surroundings, was to them real and worthy of the Divine source they recognized, is too well attested to need weak words here. One of the writer’s earliest recollections is of standing in the family pew in this same Middle Spring Church and hearing this sainted grandmother raise her thin and quavering voice in praise to one she knew would hear, receive and answer. In 1856 he moved with his brother James to South Middleton township, and worked on a farm, remaining until 1861, when he moved to his father’s farm near Shippensburg. In 1863 he built the new buildings on land purchased in Franklin county, just across the Middle Spring from this property. It was customary when possible, as in this case, to cut the timber for these large bank-barns in the vicinity, haul it to the spot and frame it on the ground. This remained the homestead until 1899, when he moved into Shippensburg, and later built a house on the west side of Normal avenue. From 1856 to 1899 Mr. Means carried on practically the work of farming. In the earlier portion of this period but little improved farm machinery was in use. Nor would it have been possible to use much of it in the then broken condition of the ground. By untiring effort the land was brought under cultivation and the rocks, stumps and stones removed, making it possible to introduce much new farm machinery as brought into general use.

On Dec. 9, 1858, Joseph McCord Means and Catherine Eliza McClelland were united in marriage at the McClelland homestead, near Upper Strasburgh, Franklin county, Pa., this being the second union between members of the Means and McClelland families. To them were born the following five sons and two daughters: John McClelland, Joseph Chalmers, Jane Agnes, Thomas Cummins, Charles McCord, James Smith and Martha Isabella, All of whom are living except Thomas Cummins, who died in infancy. For almost forty-three years, through the joys and trials incident to the times and circumstances, this couple lived and labored together. On Sept. 3, 1901, the union was sundered by death and the earnest, unselfish, truly Christian wife and mother passed to her reward and was laid to rest in Spring Hill cemetery at Shippensburg.

Beyond that which attends the quiet efforts of the upright citizen Mr. Means’s best work has been in behalf of education. For a number of years he was school director in Southampton township, Franklin Co., Pa., and during his incumbency by his interest and example, both with his fellow directors and with the patrons, did much to raise the standard of work and attainment in this section. In May, 1873, he was appointed a State trustee of Cumberland Valley State Normal School and served on the Committee of House, Buildings and Grounds, and from 1874 to 1895 on the Discipline and Instruction Committee. Following a most successful and auspicious early career there came to this institution a period requiring effort and wise determination of a high order to pilot it through financial and other shoals. Mr. Means gave without any financial return his time and best efforts to the upbuilding upon a stable financial, and a practical educational, basis of this institution. When, as here, strong-minded men are pitted against each other, differences of opinion must exist. The unbiased historian summing up this period will without question give Mr. Means credit for honesty of intention, firmness of conviction and strength of character to stand for his opinions. The subsequent success of the institution seems to speak for the correctness of the views for which he and those with him stood. Since 1895 Mr. Means has been the institution’s treasurer. But it was not only in this public capacity that he exhibited his strong desire to impress the need of an education. At no little sacrifice of time and money each child was sent to school and kept in school. Feeling the lack of this early training himself, recognizing its value and availability, he left no suitable opportunity pass to impress these needs upon his children, and to give them every opportunity within his power. As elsewhere stated Mr. Means has been a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church, first at Middle Spring and later at Shippensburg. In both churches he served at different periods as trustee.

On March 5, 1903, Mr. Means took to wife in a second marriage union Miss Danna McCullough, of near Newville. She is the daughter of James McCullough and his wife Jane Hays, and was born Oct. 15, 1846.

Such, briefly, is the life of Joseph McCord Means. For over the allotted three score years and ten he has lived virtually in this one community; a stern man of strong convictions and high ideals; a man not easily known nor always understood; a faithful and loving husband and father; a Christian citizen.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Biographical Annals of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania published in 1905 by The Genealogical Publishing Company. 

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