Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Epitaph to Remember

One of the more interesting characters that I have come across in my genealogy research is Adamson Tannehill.  According to my genealogy program, he is my 1st cousin, 6 times removed.  Adamson  was born to John Tannehill and Rachel Adamson on 23 May 1750 in Frederick Co., MD.  He married Agnes Morgan b. 1750 and they had no children.  Adamson died on 23 Dec 1820 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Co., PA.  He left no descendants, but he did live an interesting life.

Adamson lived most of his life in the Pittsburgh, PA area.  He joined the Continental Army in 1776 and quickly moved up the ranks.  He ended up acting as one of General George Washington’s most trusted Lieutenant’s.  It is said that General Washington gave a ring to his sister to remember him to the family.  There is more information about him and his military service on Wikipedia at .  You can even find copies of his handwriting in George Washington’s papers that have been digitized online. 

Adamson led a full life both during his military service and afterwards.  He ended his career as a Brigadier General in the military.  He worked as Justice of the Peace, served on the board of Directors for the Bank of Pennsylvania and returned to military service as a Major General during the War of 1812.  During his time as Justice of the Peace, he was accused of a crime that was later overturned; Adamson believed his reputation had been attacked.  He was elected to the 13th Congress of the United States but failed to win reelection in 1814.

All this is quite interesting…but in James B. Tannehill’s book on the Tannehill family (Genealogical History of the Tannahills, Tannehills and Taneyhills) he quotes an epitaph that has disappeared from memory and his gravestone.  When he died in 1820 he left this in his will:
In the name of God, amen.  I, Adam Tannehill of Grove Hill, Allegheny County, Pa., do make and declare this instrument of writing, which is written by myself when in a full and correct state of mind, and each page signed with my signature, to be my last will and testament.  From the course of nature added to the belief that I am to die, and unwilling to give those who survive me the least possible trouble respecting my worldly affairs, I only desire that my body should be buried in a decent manner at my allotted graveyard at Grove Hill; that all my just debts be paid by my wife, which are few, and the expenses that may accrue at my burial.  After this is completed, it is my will that my wife, Agnes M. Tannehill, shall inherit all my estate, real and personal and mixed.  in making my will, I do not calculate on pleasing every expectant; my great and principal object is to please myself.  I have but little to give, or it would be attended with the greater difficulty in mincing it among all who might expect a little of the little.  In a former will I had directed two busts to be executed and placed in the Court House in Pittsburgh to two of the most unprincipled scoundrels who ever appeared before a court of justice, one of them A. Tannehill is dead in reality and the other is dead to all feelings of moral principle.  I now decline a continuation and direct it to be applied to a tombstone and epitaph for myself as directed,

Adamson Tannehill was born the 23rd of May, 1750. He served his country as an officer during the American Revolution with the confidence of his superiors, and honor to himself but, in the year 1798, his character was assailed unjustly by the slanders of unprincipled men and the violence of party.

He left this world with a hope for the better,
Farewell vain world, I'e seen enough of thee
And am now careless of what thou sayeth of me;
Thy smiles I court not nor thy powers do fear.
My cares are past, my head lies quiet here.
What faults you find in me, take care to show,
And look at home, enough there's to be done;
False swearing and vile slander can't reach me here---
Of each, when living, I had my shared

Adamson Tannehill

I always wanted to see a copy of this epitaph…This was a man who carried a grudge to the very end and directed that the accusation be placed on his gravestone.  He was originally buried at the First Presbyterian Church but was later moved in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh in 1849.  I have no idea if his original gravestone had the epitaph, but I had hopes.  When friend searched out his gravestone for me, I was disappointed to see that the epitaph was not there.  If you are interested in looking at a photo go to and you can see the picture of the actual stone