The Brownsville Years

1870 postcard view of Brownsville

Brownsville, circa 1870. This postcard view is from the north.
Brownsville is in the foreground, with Bridgeport and the old covered bridge across the Monongahela behind.

We resume our story in 1860, where the census found James K. Perrin, his children and Sarah F. Athey in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania.

census record for JK Perrin

1860 Census record for James K. Perrin, Bridgeport, PA

The tax records show that they had only arrived that year, with James paying taxes as a laborer , consistent with his declared occupation to the census taker. Of note is the entry after the Perrins; Daniel Bucy and his wife Nancy. These two were living in Town Creek, Maryland in the 1850 census.

Several pages later in the Bridgeport census Upton G. M. Perrin, his wife, and their young son Marius were recorded. Upton declared that his occupation was that of carpenter. According to his later obituary, Upton may have been in town as early as 1858. However, Marius' place of birth was given as Maryland.

UGM Perrin census record

1860 census record for Upton G. M. Perrin, Bridgeport, PA

The Three Towns

The borough of Bridgeport, along with Brownsville and West Brownsville, were known as the Three Towns, a well established metropolis which had thrived due to its location at the intersection of the National Pike and the Monongahela River. In 1820 the cities had a population greater than Pittsburgh, and were the site of construction of the flat-bottomed steam boats responsible for commerce on the Ohio River. Eclipsed by the railroad in 1852, the area remained prosperous until the twentieth century by re-inventing itself with the coal industry. Now Brownsville is a true ghost of its former self. Please see the personal history section for more recent images of this place.

a picture map of brownsville, 1883

A picture map of Brownsville and Bridgeport, PA, from 1883 (Library of Congress).
This view is from the south and west

For orientation to this map, north is left. The National Road arrived from the east into Brownsville on the ridge north of Dunlap Creek, then plunged down the hill into the Neck. The crossing over Dunlap Creek by the Road was via the first steel bridge constructed in the United States, in 1835. This bridge is still in use. Upon entering Bridgeport, the Road hung right across an enormous covered bridge over the Monongahela to West Brownsville.

While there are no street addresses to be found in the Brownsville census before 1910, it is possible to look at these records serially and get a notion of exactly where people lived. The James K. Perrin residence was between Water Street and Second Street in Bridgeport somewhere near the 2nd Methodist Episcopal Church.

detail of bridgeport, 1883

Detail of Bridgeport, with the 2nd Methodist Episcopal Church marked by "H"

There are no other records for James K. Perrin until his death in Brownsvile in 1887. He left no will and bought no land. What follows is a summary of James' children.

Upton Gladden M. Perrin

Upton G. M. Perrin, the oldest son of James K., is my great-greatgrandfather. His later obituary will confirm his birth in intermountain Maryland, as well as his higher education in Rainsburgh, Pennsylvania, a town halfway between Cheneysville and Bedford in Friend's Cove .

Rainsburg was dependent upon the country district schools until 1847, when, through the exertions of Samuel Williams and others, a stone building, to be used for educational and religious purposes, was erected in the village.

The Allegheny Male and Female Seminary, intended by its founders to be a classical and normal institution, was chartered by an act of the legislature approved March 26, 1853. The following trustees are named in the charter: Samuel Williams, Jacob Barndollar, George Slicer, J. W. Crawford, A. C. James, W. S. Cunningham, George Bortz, Elias Gump and C. Graham.

A lot of land consisting of nearly six acres was deeded to the trustees by Samuel Williams for the site and grounds of the institution. A fund was raised by subscription, shares being placed at twenty-five dollars each. Mr. Williams, who was the instigator of the movement, took the largest number of shares, and was one of the most zealous friends and supporters of the school. A brick building, costing about four thousand dollars, was completed in 1854.

The institution was placed, by its charter, under the care of the Allegheny circuit of the annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal church. It was opened with Prof. John Pollock, principal, and became well patronized. The second principal was Prof. W. W. Brim. The school was carried on until the breaking out of the war, when the students from Maryland and Virginia, forming a considerable portion of the school, withdrew; others of the young men enlisted and the seminary was closed. Soon after the school property was sold at a great sacrifice. The building is now owned by the Odd-Fellows' lodge, from whom it is rented for the use of borough and private schools.

Mr. Williams deserves special mention for his earnest service in behalf of the school. To start it and support it he sacrificed both time and money; and had all of its supporters been equally careful of its welfare, doubtless the institution would still be prosperous.

There is a picture of the Seminary building, taken in 2009, in a personal history narrative .

It was probably there that he met Rachel Morgart, born in 1839, the youngest of eleven children born to Peter Morgart and Elizabeth Cessna. They married in Maryland in 1858 . (The laws in Maryland were looser; you didn't have to be 21 to marry without parental consent.) As seen above they already had one child at the time of the 1860 census.

Upton's name was recorded in a local Brownsville history :

In the fall of 1842, Ephraim L. Blaine was the Democratic candidate for prothonotary, and was elected. In February of the following year he sold out a large portion of his village property to Capt. John S. Pringle, who at once established an extensive yard for the building of steamboats, etc...

Until the spring of 1843 his business was carried on in Bridgeport, Fayette Co. He then purchased a large portion of Ephraim L. Blaine's plat of West Brownsville (the site of the present yard), including the latter's early residence and saw-mill. Increased facilities were obtained in West Brownsville. The town was given its first impetus and the capacities for boat-building were doubled. In 1864, W. W. Aull was admitted as a partner. The firm of Pringle and Aull, however, only continued one year, for in 1865 the former purchased the latter's interest and thereupon formed a joint-stock company, known as the "Pringle Boat-Building Company," the members being as follows: John Wilkinson, James Storer, John S. Gray, William Patterson, James H. Gray, John Starr, Alexander K. McKee, A. J. Smalley, James Blair, U. G. M. Perrin, Alfred S. Starr, Joseph Weaver, James Patterson, Andrew C. Axton, E. F. Wise, John Wiegel, Daniel French, Henry Minks, Robert Houston, George McClain, William Gray, John S. Pringle, J. D. S. Pringle, and Finley Patterson.

The "Boat-Building Company" continued about three years, when John S. Pringle bought out the other members and again became sole owner. ... The present firm built nine steamboats in 1881, and furnished employment to sixty men. Their works are extensive, covering about ten acres of ground, while the mill in use has a capacity of sawing sixteen thousand feet of boat lumber per day.

I will continue with Upton's life after he moved to Pittsburgh in 1876 in the next section. It seems clear that he was working his way up the corporate ladder when he left Brownsville for greener pastures.

Harmon C. M. Perrin

Born in 1840, Harmon enlisted in Company F, 18th Cavalry Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers on November 23,1862 . He has the distinction of being the last person in this family to have his last name misspelled by the government (as Perron).

18th PA calvalry

The 18th regiment Pennsylvania cavalry, at a winter encampment, 1863-64

The history of this regiment is summarized in a background section. The definitive 300 page description of the regiment, History of the Eighteenth Regiment of Cavalry, Pennsylvania Volunteers (163d Regiment of the Line), 1862 - 1865, published in 1899, can be found online. Harmon died on September 28, 1864 . One source states that he was a prisoner of war at Andersonville ; but this is not substantiated. The fact that his body is now in the National Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia argues that he died with his regiment, probably of typhoid fever .

Harmon Perrin gravestone

Harmon Perrin gravestone at Alexander National Cemetery

Elizabeth A. Perrin

Also known as Eliza or Lida. She was working as a milliner (a maker of hats) in the 1880 census. She never left home, dying on New Year's Day, 1889 .

Thomas L. Perrin

Another success story. Born September 29, 1845, Thomas also enlisted in Company F, 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry in 1862, reaching the rank of commissary sergeant when he was wounded on June 14, 1864 in a battle at White Oak Swamp, Virginia . He was subsequently at several hospitals, with a discharge from White Hall U. S. General Hospital on April 6, 1865. He, and later his widow, received a disability pension, and it is his disability pension file that provides most of the facts I will describe below .

Thomas returned to Brownsville in 1865. In the 1870 census of Bridgeport borough he was listed as a dentist; in fact he was the only dentist in town. The previous dentist in Bridgeport, a James Abrams, had moved to Brownsville proper. One might assume that Thomas apprenticed with Dr. Abrams, although his own learning was probably on the fly (he is listed in the 1850 census as a silversmith!). Equally possible was that Thomas learned a lot about surgery while convalescing from his wartime injury.

The pension record states that Thomas moved to Baltimore in 1870, and then to Brooklyn, New York, in 1874. While in Baltimore he married Ellen Slee, who grew up on the farm in Hartford County, Maryland, but whose family had been in Baltimore County as early as 1780. The couple originally resided at 319 Court Street in Brooklyn, but subsequently in 1887 removed to 352 Clinton Street. He continued to practice dentistry through the 1920 census, and at one point there were two servants in the household.

The pension records provide ample information regarding his physical health. Thomas was six feet tall, and had blue eyes and "fair" hair. His disability resulted from a gunshot wound which can be best described with a picture from his 1907 physical examination.

disability examination diagram

Thomas Perrins injury, from an 1907 examination

I am not surprised that the couple had no children. On his death the New York Times ran the following obituary :

PERRIN -- On Wednesday, June 29, 1927, at his home, 352 Clinton St., Brooklyn, Dr. Thomas L. Perrin, beloved husband of Ella S. Perrin. Funeral services at the Hanson Place Methodist Episcopal Church, Hanson Place and St. Felix St., Brooklyn, Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock.

I can provide some images for Thomas' neighborhood. The first is a lithograph of the neighborhood, known as Cobble Hill. It is located close to the East River, about a mile south of the Brooklyn Bridge

1888 brooklyn map

A portion of the Brooklyn, NY Map from 1888. 352 Clinton Street is indicated by the red dot

lithograph of cobble hill, circa 1880

Cobble Hill, circa 1880

Modern day 312 clinton street

The brownstone at 312 clinton street. See the New York Times slide show

Ms. Ella Perrin remained at Clinton Street with her brother-in-law and niece; she died July 14, 1938. She and her husband are buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn .

Thomas L. Perrin grave stone

Thomas L. and Ellen Slee Perrin grave stone. © Bob Collins

William H. Perrin

William H. was born in 1847. He had left Brownsville before 1870 and was listed in the Pittsburgh directory in 1873. William's subsequent life is described briefly in the next section.

Susan Foster Perrin

Susan was born in 1848. She was listed as a milliner in the 1870 census in Bridgeport. She didn't appear to be working as of the 1880 census, and does not show up anywhere in the 1900 census records. Notes from my family imply that she lived for some time with her brother Thomas in Brooklyn. This was also stated in the obituary of her sister Mary, below.

For Susan I have several obituaries, first from Pennsylvania :

Miss Susan Perrin, formerly of this place, died at the home of her brother, Wm. Perrin, East End, Pittsburgh. Funeral this afternoon on the arrival of the one o'clock train. Internment at Bridgeport Cemetery.

Uniontown Daily News Standard, Aug. 16, 1902 -- News of Brownsville

Miss Sue J Perrin follows her sister, Mrs. N. R. Perrin, to her grave, she having died at her brother's home, William H. Perrin, in the East End, Pittsburgh. She will be remembered as living in the brick cottage at the brow of Front Street hill, being a daughter of the late J. K. Perrin.

The Brownsville Clipper, Aug. 21, 1902

front street, brownsville

Detail of Brownsville, showing Front Street

And most helpful is the piece in the New York Times, presumably written at the request of her brother Thomas :

Miss Sue F. Perrin Dead.

Special to The New York Times.

WASHINGTON, Penn., Aug. 15 -- Miss Sue F. Perrin, a sister of Dr. Thomas L. Perrin of Brooklyn, died here last evening, after an illness of two days. She came here to nurse her sister, Mrs. N. R. Baker, who had been ill. Miss Perrin contracted the same disease, and died after a two days' illness. Her brother has been sent for, as have two brothers living in Western Pennsylvania.

The way I read the Uniontown obituary, it must have been a while since she had lived in Fayette County. And while there are some disagreements among the three obituaries, I can forgive Thomas for not knowing the exact location of his sister's death. His submission to the New York Times is most helpful in establishing what happened, however. As Susan's sister had died in June of that year, one must assume that Susan contracted a non-acute infection which became fulminant later. The only likely illness that I know of which could work out this way would be tuberculosis.

Mary A. Perrin Baker

The youngest daughter of the family, Mary was still at home in 1870, and received a mention in an unusual little document, a book about the Brownsville Second Methodist Church, found in a nursing home in Arizona and posted on the web :

In the fall of 1877, and again in September of 1878, the ravages of that dread disease, diphtheria, among the children of our towns were sorrowful in the extreme. At one time in September of 1878, Memorial Services were held in the primary room, by Miss Mary Perrin, commemorative of the death of two members of this department, namely, Frank Patterson and Ora Foulk.

She married in 1878 to Nehemiah Regester Baker. The Baker family had settled in West Bethlehem township, Washington County, perhaps eighty years before. Nehemiah was listed as a retail merchant in the same township in the 1880 census, and the family was in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1900. There Nehemiah opened a bank :

The present Citizens National Bank opened its doors on September 15, 1885, in the building that had been occupied by the Washington Savings Bank. The entire banking force on the day the Citizens National Bank was opened, was composed of N. R. Baker, cashier, and Thomas G. Allison, clerk, who conducted all of the business such as waiting on customers and keeping books for over a year, before any addition was made to the force.

Mr. Baker has been cashier of the bank ever since and has seen it grow beyond the wildest dreams of its promoters, for from its two employees thirty years ago, the force has grown to thirty-one.

The first deposit was received by Mr. Baker on September 15, 1885, from Dr. G. W. Roberts, a well known local druggist, years ago, and the first president of the bank. The deposit was $1,650. A total of $5,026.80 was deposited that first day by seven persons and in forty years, this has grown to $8,700,000 and there are now about 6,000 open accounts.

Postcard of Citizens National Bank

Postcard of Citizens National Bank, circa 1915
Note older bank building at left

Mary died in June, 1902. Her obituary appeared in both the Washington and Brownsville newspapers . The Washington Recorder text is more substantial:

Mrs. Baker, wife of N. R. Baker, of North avenue, cashier of the Citizens National bank, died Monday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Presbyterian hospital, Allegheny, aged about 45 years. The deceased was taken to this hospital about three weeks ago, but her condition had not been thought serious, and her death was very unexpected, and came as a shock to her family and her many friends. It is thought that her death was partly due to paralysis. About a year ago Mrs. Baker was injured in a runaway, and since that time had not regained her usual health. Besides her husband, N. R. Baker, there survive two children, Ella P. Baker, at home, and Walter H., superintendent of the Waynesburg tin mills. The deceased was a member of the First Methodist, Episcopal church, and was an active worker in all the organizations of the church. She was of a pleasing and affable disposition and made friends with all whom she met. Her maiden name was Perrin, and her home was at Brownsville. A sister, Miss Sue Perrin, of Brooklyn N. Y., was with Mrs. Baker at the time of her demise. Two brothers also survive, Dr. Thomas Perrin, of Brooklyn N. Y., and William Perrin, of Crafton.

Baker family plot

Baker family plot, Washington Cemetery

Nehemiah subsequently remarried and there were several more daughters. His death made the front page of the Washington Recorder :

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N. R. Baker Had Been Cashier of Citizens National For 41 Years


The obituary fits the chronology for Mary Perrin very well. She met Neahmiah when he worked in Brownsville, and they left Zollarsville for Washington in early 1885. It also demonstrated the status the Methodist Church afforded Nehemiah; the district superintendent co-officiated at the funeral.

Neamiah and Mary Perrin had two children, Walter and Ella, both of whom have interesting histories and as they were my grandfather's only "cousins", they deserve some discussion.

Walter Hudson Baker

Graduation picture of Walter Hudson Baker, 1898

William Hudson Baker, 1898. © U. Grant Miller Library

Mary's son Walter Hudson Baker married Amelia Duncan, the heir of George Duncan, a major manufacturer of glass tableware . They lived with her mother at 328 E. Wheeling Street in Washington. Walter was the president of Universal Steel in Washington, Pennsylvania, at the time of the last available census records in 1930. Also living at that address in that year was his daughter Anna, who had married D. P. Weimer. W. H. donated this house to his alma mater, Washington and Jefferson College, in 1944, a year after his wife's death; it is now the President's House on that campus. He subsequently remarried, to die in 1947.

328 E. Wheeling st

328 E. Wheeling Street, Washington, Pennsylvania

All of this and more is in his obituary, which also appeared on the front page of the Washington Observer :

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Walter H. Baker Was Widely Recognized as Steel Maker
Stricken in Home Here Yesterday Afternoon

Walter Hudson Baker, 68, President of the Universal-Cyclops Steel Corporation and nationally prominent as a manufacturer of special steels, died suddenly at his home here, LeMoyne avenue extension, yesterday.

Portrait of W.H. Baker

Portrait of Walter Hudson Baker, President's House, Washington & Jefferson College

Walter and Amy's house is now the President's house on the Washington & Jefferson campus.

Ella Perrin Baker Ford

Ella Baker, born in October, 1880, was listed in a Washington, Pennsylvania social registry in 1912 and 1913 as married to Harry E. Ford . (N. R. and Walter H. Baker are also listed.) The 1910 census stated that they married in 1904, and there was a son, Walter B., born in 1908.

Harry Egerton Ford was born in Ontario in 1873, and appeared in the 1900 census in Middleton, Connecticut (Wesleyan University) as an assistant in modern languages. He arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1901, according to the Washington & Jefferson College student publication Pandora.

1903 photo of H. E. Ford

Photo of Harry E. Ford, from the 1903 Pandora. © U. Grant Miller Library

This annual student publication provides pictures and descriptions of their teacher through 1916. Several issues provide quotes that are quite helpful in picturing this man. The first comes from the 1905 publication, which was written by the class of 1904 the previous spring :

This gentleman no longer wears the puny mustache or the half sour expression you see in the picture. He now flits about as gay as a humming bird. Yes, it is to take place in June. The subject is a Toronto University man who teaches Romance Languages and Literature and who has a long pedigree we do not intend to record here. The most important looking member of the faculty and its strictest disciplinarian is Harry Egerton Ford.

The marriage license stated that Ella and Harry actually married in August of 1904. Subsequent Pandora's state that he liked photography, the exotic sport soccer, and that "Harry has a tongue like a Gillette safety razor, with the safety left off."

Harry and Ella moved back to Toronto in 1917. My grandfather supplied addresses for the Harry E. Ford family in Toronto and Port Carling, Ontario in his address book. Later in this narrative is a photographic series taken by him from Harry's summer house at Port Carling. I have read that Ella died in Ontario in 1949./

Son Walter Baker Ford stayed in Pennsylvania. In the 1940 census in Mount Lebanon there is a Walter B. Ford, born in 1908 in Canada and working as an accountant for a steel company. He was married to Betty, and they had a son age 2. He died in 2000, according to the social security.

Final Years

By 1880 James K. Perrin, Sarah F. Athey, and daughters Susan and Lida were living in Brownsville proper. James listed his occupation as farmer. This being the first census in which persons declared the state in which their mother and father were born, it is of interest to see that James stated that his father was born in Pennsylvania (this would be Thomas Perrin), and his mother in Virginia. The comparison of their neighbors in the 1880 census with the 1900 and 1910 records (which include addresses) show that they resided on Front Street, in either the second or third block.

Bridgeport cemetery Perrin plot

The Perrin plot, Bridgeport Cemetery

James K. Perrin died in 1887, eighteen months following the death of Sarah F. Athey. I am unable to find his obituary, as the Brownsville Clipper from those years apparently has not survived. The Bridgeport Cemetery contains a plot with four graves, including James, Aunt Sarah, Lida and Susan. I belive that Thomas paid for this edifice; the information on file from the Bridgeport Cemetery states it was his plot . Ann (Athey) Perrin and Harmon C. M. Perrin are also mentioned on the center monument.

detail of perrin monument

Detail of the east, north and west sides of the Perrin monument