Upton G. M. Perrin, William H. Perrin and Pittsburg


A picture map of Pittsburgh in 1871 (Library of Congress)


Two sons of James K. Perrin, Upton and William, moved from Brownsville to Pittsburgh. This and the next two sections of this genealogy will describe their assimilation into this twentieth century urban environment. Several other families intersected with the Perrins in the process; the Maxwells, Kramers, Becks and Wentz' will receive more description in their own sections. As all of those families traveled through Pittsburgh at some point, a brief description of its history and geography should be helpful.

Pittsburgh, while now not as ghostly as Brownsville, has changed so much even in my lifetime that I have trouble recognizing it. At the end of the nineteenth century Pittsburgh symbolized the growth of industrial America far more than any other Rust Belt city. The time frame of this section includes the introduction of most of the basic conveniences associated with modern life -- gas lighting, then electricity, the telephone, the automobile -- as well as modern political and capitalist corruption. But for most of this, as before, the Perrin family will be on the sidelines, bit players at best, floating in the sea of change.

Those who are paying attention will notice that the name for this city is spelled two different ways in this narrative. I have tried to stay with the contemporary spellings used, which changed from Pittsburgh to Pittsburg in 1890 and back again in 1911. For an explanation please click the eye glasses icon.


Settlement around Fort Pitt really began after 1785, when accounts speak of settlers and Indians living next to the Fort. Pittsburgh first served as a staging ground for people proceeding west along the Ohio River. Like Brownsville, the construction of steamboats began after 1810. The iron and glass industries followed in the 1820s. By 1850, following destruction of much of Pittsburgh by fire in 1845, there was a population of 50,000 people.

1852 Pittsburgh

The cities of Allegheny, Pittsburgh, and and the borough of Birmingham, 1852

At that point there were three cities here which ultimately would merge; Allegheny north and Birmingham south of the rivers, with Pittsburgh proper between. Industry congregated along the rivers; at the time of the above map there was only one railroad which followed Liberty Avenue and ended at the Point. Bridges over the Allegheny (4) and Monongahela (1) would multiply in the next thirty years, as would the population, which reached 150,000 in 1880.


Central Pittsburg, probably after 1888 (given the Point bridges), showing the city wards

It was in 1875 that Andrew Carnegie opened his first steel mill further upstream on the Monongahela River. The Point bridge over the Monongahela opened in 1888. The map above, drawn after the Point bridge was opened, shows multiple railroads into town, one of whom, the P. C. & St. L. (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and St. Louis) Railroad will prove important later.

While many are familiar with the labor wars in reference to Carnegie and the Homestead Mill later in this century, the first major labor dispute in America occurred here (and elsewhere) in 1877, when in protest of wage cuts and work speedups, the Pennsylvania Railroad workers walked off their jobs. The Governor called out the National Guard; when the Pittsburgh units would not respond, he sent Guard units from Philadelphia into town. These troops, when faced with a mob throwing stones at them, opened fire, killing over twenty people. The result was a riot involving perhaps 20,000 people, who burned 22 blocks of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near Liberty Avenue from 8th to 26th Avenue. Another twenty people died as the Guard had to shoot its way out of a railroad roundhouse in which it was entrapped.

A Steeple-View of the Pittsburgh Conflagration

"A Steeple-View of the Pittsburgh Conflagration," an engraving by M. B. Leiser .

Stereoscopic view of riot aftermath

Stereoscopic view of the riot aftermath, July 22, 1877

It is into this milieu that Upton and William H. Perrin moved in the 1870s.

Life in the Point

The 1880 census showed Upton, his wife Rachel and brother William H., plus two children and two borders, living at 23 Second Avenue in the Point. This would place them at the location labeled Graham on the map below (from 1872). The location would have been within a few blocks of the chief steamboat building and docking sites on either river. The map snippet shows several foundries, including one owned by a Robert Lea at the corner of First and Ferry. Lea built steamboat engines probably to around 1890.

map detail

Detail from the 1871 Pittsburgh panorama
Ferry Street is the rightmost street leading from the Monongehela northeast

Living here must not have been pleasant. Writers had already referred to the Pittsburgh air as "hell with the lid off." Housing was crowded, as evidenced in the above drawing from the 1877 riot, as well as the photo below from 1900. But there still were the necessary amenities. The map snippet shows that a Methodist Church was one block away (I am told that this was a Reformed Methodist Church; the Perrin family probably stayed with the Methodist Episcopal Church, necessitating a walk another several blocks to the one on Liberty Avenue). The First Ward school was two blocks to the west.


Detail of the first ward, Pittsburgh, dated 1872.

The Point, photo about 1900

A photograph, about 1900, of the Point, Pittsburg

A neighborhood view of the Point, 1900

View of a Point neighborhood, unknown street. About 1900

The annual Pittsburgh Directory is particularly helpful in following the Perrins and others through this period. The first occurrence of a Perrin in that directory was William H. Perrin, machinist, residing at 21 Third in 1873. According to the directory he then appeared at 22 Pike in 1874, 466 Penn in 1875, 26 Second Avenue in 1878 and 23 Second Avenue in 1880 through 1884. U. G. M. Perrin was first listed in the 1876/77 directory at 32 Second Avenue; with subsequent addresses at 23 Second Avenue through 1882 and 17 Third Avenue through 1885. 1880 was the only year the brothers lived at the same address.

Upton G. M. Perrin


Rachel Morgart

Upton's wife Rachel died in 1881, and with that there is the first mention of the Perrins in the Pittsburgh press :

PERRIN. On Monday Jan 31 at 9:30 P.M. Rachel, wife of U.G.M. Perrin, aged 42 years. Funeral at 23 2nd Avenue February 2.

The real significance of this is the fact that the family had enough money to place a death notice in the major newspaper of the day. It unfortunately would not be the last such notice.

Morgart stone

Rachel Morgart Perrins stone, Homewood Cemetery

Morgart stone

Rachel Morgart Perrins stone, somewhat digitally enhanced

In February of 1881 Upton and William Perrin purchased a plot in the newly formed Homewood Cemetery, which is located on the east side of Pittsburgh. Rachel was the first of the Perrins to be buried here, and her stone, while deteriorating from 130 years of Pittsburgh air, is most distinguished. In a cemetery now with 50,000 people buried, she was number 326. Unfortunately the masons misspelled her name as RACHEM M. PERRIN. There is a triangle on the top of this marker, with three letters written inside. The corrosion is such that I am uncertain what these letters are. I suspect this is a symbol from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

An IOOF pendant

IOOF Bling

The triangle is best known as a symbol for the trinity in Masonic iconography. However, with the three initials inside, it is more consistent with IOOF use. Some refer to the Odd Fellows as "working-class masons". Many of the symbols are shared, but some are unique, such as the chain of three links in the piece of jewelry above. There will be more information linking the family with the IOOF later.

Isabel F. Kerr (Robinson)

postcard picture of steamboats

A postcard picture of steamboats along the Monongahela, Pittsburg, about 1905

Upton remarried, on October 18, 1882, a woman named Isabel F. Kerr . Isabel was born in 1841 to Nathaniel Preston Kerr and Isabel (Hall) Kerr in Freedom, Pennsylvania . The history of this little town, located on the Ohio River downstream from Pittsburgh in Beaver County, is fascinating, and probably too much a digression for here, but that will not stop me. Isabel's uncle, Thomas G. Kerr, was from 1844 to 1884 a partner and then the sole owner of a steamboat building company named McCaskey & Kerr .

In the year 1832 Phillips & Betz must have dissolved their copartnership, as in that year Stephen Phillips and John Graham formed a copartnership in the building of steamboats. This firm was succeeded by Abel Coffin in the same business, and this by "the Freedom Boat Building Society." The firm of Charles Graham & Company, composed of Chas. Graham, Robert McCaskey, and Thomas G. Kerr, next succeeded to the business; and this firm was followed by that of McCaskey & Kerr. This firm was continued for thirty-eight years, until the death of Robert McCaskey, when, by agreement, the business was continued under the same firm name, rounding out the full forty years. This firm was succeeded by W. H. Brown's Sons; they by Spear & Company; and the latter by Dunbar & Sons, which ended the business in the original boat-yard. John Graham and George Rogers, under the firm name of Graham & Rogers, conducted the business of boat-building for a time above the landing. James A. Sholes & Company built and operated a steam saw-mill above the landing, and conducted the business of a planing mill and lumber yard. John Baker & Company had a large shop for the manufacturing of steam-engines on the southeast corner of Vicary Street, facing the river, and had a large foundry on the corner of Wolf Alley and Vicary Street....

Steamboat at Freedom

Steamboat docking at Freedom, Pennsylvania circa 1890

The 1850 census for North Freedom showed Nathaniel P. Kerr and wife Isabella with 5 children. The 1860 census included Nethaniel P. but no wife Isabella. There were only three of the original five children. Correspondence from Mary Kay Narla indicates that the Kerr family moved to Minneapolis after 1850. The entire family was counted in the 1857 Minnesota territorial census in September. Shortly thereafter wife Isabella and daughter Mary S. died of typhoid; they are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Minneapolis   in lot 63 of block A; I believe a later member of this family has provided the modern headstones. Nathaniel obtained 120 acres of land from the government in 1859; it was located in northwestern Hennepin County, Minnesota, about 1 mile southeast of Rogers and now straddled by interstate 94 . But the family must have then returned to Pennsylvania before the 1860 census minus Thaddeus. In 1860 he was working as a carpenter in Minneapolis, with a wife and infant son.

Kerr graves in Pioneer Cemetery, Minneapolis

Isabella and Mary Kerr graves, Pioneer Cemetery, Minneapolis

As half of the William H. and Upton G. M. Perrin Homewood Cemetery plot was purchased later by Catherine Robinson, I can surmise that Isabel had a marriage previous to Upton Perrin. The census records shed some light on that possibility. Isabel Robinson was a widow in the 1880 census living in Freedom with Edith Kerr. In the 1870 census, Isabel and her son Harry P. Robinson lived at the Thomas G. Kerr residence in Freedom. Harry, born in 1864, had married Catherine and lived in Allegheny in the 1900 census.

Isabel's obituary in 1904 confirmed her family tree .

Death of Mrs. Isabella K. Perrin

After an illness of three months, Mrs. Isabella K. Perrin, widow of U. G. M. Perrin, who died two years ago, died at 5:30 last Tuesday evening, at her home 114 Noble Avenue. Mrs. Perrin was 65 years old and one of the oldest and best known residents of Crafton. She was the daughter of Nathaniel and Isabella F. Kerr, and was born in Beaver county, Pa. After her marriage she removed to Crafton where she has lived for the past 19 years. She was one of the oldest members of the M. E. Church. She is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Alice Conrad, of Van Port, Pa., and Miss Edith Kerr, of Crafton and two brothers, T. S. Kerr, of Minneapolis, and T. J. Kerr, of East Liverpool, O. The funeral services were conducted Wednesday evening at 7 o'clock, at her late residence, by Rev. W. W. Youngson, of the M. E. Church. The M. E. Church quartet sang. Interment took place Thursday afternoon at Homewood cemetery.

Isabella was buried in the Perrin plot at Homewood Cemetery, as is her son Harrison P. Robinson, died 1902.



The first child of Upton and Rachel, Marius, is known only from the 1860 census

F. R. C.

Florus Romulas Cassius Perrin was born August 3, 1863 in Brownsville. By 1880 he was working as a clerk, according to the census. His later life is the subject of the next section.


Sarah Arbia Perrin was born July 3, 1873 . Aunt Anna stated that she also was born in Brownsville. I know nothing about her save her two obituaries from 1901:

On Tuesday June 25, 1901, at 1:50 A.M. Sarah Arbia Perrin, daughter of U. G. M. Perrin. Funeral services at the residence of her father, Noble Ave. this evening at 8 P.M. Interment private.

Miss Arbia Perrin, aged 26 years, died suddenly last Tuesday at 1 a. m. at the home of her father, U. G. M. Perrin, on Noble avenue, Crafton, from paralysis. Miss Perrin was born in Brownsville, but several years ago moved to Crafton, where the family is well known. She was a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church, and had taken a active part in Sunday school and church work. The deceased was a sister of F. R. C. Perrin. The funeral services were held at the residence of her father last Wednesday evening, and were large attended, testifying to the high esteem in which she was held by a large circle of acquaintances.. Her pastor, Rev. Dr. G. Chapman Jones, officiated at the services, assisted by Rev. Dr. T. N. Boyle, and the music was by a choir composed of personal friends of the deceased. The interment was in Homewood cemetery, on Thursday morning.

The Allegheny County death registry listed Arbia's cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage and apoplexy . I can only guess that she had a cerebral aneurysm.


Upton's obituary states that he was employed for many years by the firm James Rees & Sons, who built steamboats on the Allegheny River at 4th Street. By 1900 Upton was, according to his declaration in the census records, superintendent of the boat yard. I have included Mr. Rees' biography, from the Standard history of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, here. A list of the ships built at this shipyard can be found online, and on occasion a 1913 illustrated catalogue of their ships has been available on the web.

James Rees and sons

From the Official municipal program of the sesqui-centennial celebration of the City of Pittsburgh , 1908

I suspect, however, that Upton originally worked for Robert Lea's steamboat enterprise. The reason for this speculation is motivated by the naming of his grandson, Lea Baker Perrin, in 1886. The Robert Lea enterprise, located at the northwest corner of First and Ferry and shown on the 1872 First Ward map was established in 1854 . His cousin, David Nelson Lea, merits an entry in the biographical histories of the county :

David N. Lea, postoffice Woodville, is the second son of Robert and Mary Lea. He was educated at the public schools of Scott township, and early in life commenced the study of steamboat-engineering, which business he has followed over thirty years. In 1846 he made his first trip to New Orleans, under Capt. Steven Stone, on the steamboat Pennsylvania, and after that made three trips to New Orleans from Pittsburgh. He belonged to the volunteer fire company of Pittsburgh for eight years, and fought the big fire of 1845 from beginning to end. During the war, in the year 1861, he was employed by the government to take four engines from Pittsburgh, by railway, to St. Louis, to place on the two gunboats Carondelet and Pittsburgh, and deliver them by water, on the Mississippi, ready for service at Cairo; then returned home on account of sickness in the family. Among his most noted voyages was that in 1881, when he safely carried the government supplies up the Yellowstone and Big Horn rivers, to a point beyond Fort Custer, which, until then, had never been explored so far by steamboat. This trip required three months, and Mr. Lea regards with pride the success of the enterprise. His principal work has been on the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He is now living retired on a part of the old homestead, which is some of the original tract purchased by his ancestors. He was married, in 1848, to Ellen Fryer, and to them were born Annetta (Mrs. Keller) and Kate (Mrs. Gullett). His second marriage took place in 1865 with Miss A. E. Harbison, daughter of Matthew and Jane (McCormick) Harbison, and two children were born to this union: William N., a painter by trade, and Jennie, now Mrs. Watson. Mr. Lea, although retired from active life, superintends the work on his farm. He is a republican; the family are members of the U. P. Church.

Both of these men are grandsons of Major William Lea, who settled in the Chartiers valley in 1765, having first come to the region in 1757 when he was a member of the British force who reclaimed Fort Duquesne from the French .

[Regarding Lea Perrin's middle name Baker: I have already noted the name Baker associated with the steamboat business in Freedom, Pennsylvania, and indirectly with Isabella Kerr, above. However, the name Baker most likely refered to Upton's brother-in-law N. R. Baker in Washington, Pennsylvania.]

Later Years

Upton and Isabel with daughter Arbia and son F. R. C. presumably moved to Crafton in 1885 or 1886. In Crafton, Upton Perrin resided at 114 Noble Avenue, just north of the corner of Noble and John Street next door to F. R. C. Perrin. The 1900 census showed Upton, Isabel and Arbia at that address, as shown on the maps in the next section.

Upton died January 22, 1903 . He did not have a Pittsburg obituary. His obituary from Crafton concisely summarized his life :

U. G. M. Perrin, one of Crafton's most respected citizens, died last Thursday at 9 p. m., at his home in Noble avenue, aged 66 years. Mr. Perrin was a charter member of the Crafton M. E. Church, and a man held in the highest regard by his large circle of friends and acquaintances.

Deceased was born on a farm 20 miles west of Cumberland, Md., in August, 1836. He attended college at Rainsburg, Bedford county, this state, and shortly after leaving college was married and settled in Brownsville, Pa., where he learned the trade of a ship-builder, following that occupation all his life. For many years he had been with the Pittsburg firm of James Rees & Sons as superintendent of their boat-building department. In 1876 he moved to Pittsburg from Brownsville, came to Crafton 17 years ago, and has lived in the same house in Noble avenue ever since. Deceased was married the second time on October 18,1882, to Mrs. Isbelle Robinson, who survives him. He is also survived by one son, F. R. C. Perrin, who resided next door to him. A daughter, Miss Arbia Perrin, died in June, 1900. Two brothers survive him -- Thomas L. Perrin, a dentist, of Brooklyn, N. Y., and William H. Perrin, of the East End, Pittsburg.

The funeral services will be held this [Saturday] evening at 8 o'clock at the family home, conducted by his pastor, Rev. W. W. Youngson, of the Crafton M. E. Church. The interment will be private to-morrow in Homewood cemetery.

Upton was also noticed in Brownsville .

U. G. M. Perrin, aged 67, died at Crafton, Pa. one day last week. In 1857 he resided in Brownsville and worked at boat building, after which he went to Pittsburgh and from there to Crafton. His sister, Mrs. N. R. Baker, died at Washington about a year ago. His father, the late J. K. Perrin, as well as the entire family, is kindly remembered by Brownsville people.

Will and Estate

Upton's will betrayed his origins. After he bequeathed his life insurance to F. R. C., he referred to his Crafton land by name :

...After the payment of my just debts and other expenses of my last sickness and burial, I do give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife, Isabella, the homestead being the premise known as Wild Cherry Terrace and described as comprising some 83 1/2 feet front, situate on the East side of Noble Avenue, at the corner of John Street in the Town of Crafton, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, together with all improvements thereon and personal property thereto belonging.

The executors of Upton's estate were Isabella and W. H. Perrin. The estate was valued at $141, not including a house worth $6225. Isabella completed the purchase of Upton's Wild Cherry Terrace in 1903 in a deed from Charles Craft for a purchase price of $1000 . It is likely that Craft had a mortgage with Upton regarding the Noble Avenue property before 1903; the details of such an arrangement are clearer for son F. R. C., as described in the next section.

William H. Perrin

W. H. Perrin, who lived in the Point as early as 1874, can be traced courtesy of the Pittsburgh directories to various Point addresses through 1884. After that both the directories and the deed records show he moved to 319 River Avenue in 1884 , 214 Fairmount Avenue in 1890  and 5523 Broad Street in 1896 . All of these addresses are on in the East End of Pittsburgh, in the East Liberty neighborhood.

According to the census William married in 1883 to Mary Charlton. William worked as a machinist or foreman. His will was probated in 1919. He was initially buried in Homewood Cemetery. After his wife's death in 1928, her estate requested the removal of his body to Union Cemetery, Steubenville, Ohio . There were no children.