Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 97 of 193)
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west bank of the Monongahela, and settled upon the
" Indian Hill" tract, which had previously been the
property of "Indian Peter," opposite Brownsville.
He became the owner of the ferry across the river at
this point, and operated it for many years. He pur-
chased land in Brownsville, on the " Neck," where
his landing-place was located, as also the grist-mill
and saw-mill (elsewhere mentioned) which he built
in partnership with Robert Clarke. A part of liis
land on the " Neck" was sold March 19, 1829, to
Samuel J. Krepps.

Gillespie's daughter, Nellie, married a man named
Boyle. They lived in Brownsville in a log house that
stood on Second Street in the rear of the Central
Hotel. In that house was born their daughter, Maria,
who became the wife of the Hon. Thomas Ewing, of
Ohio, and mother of the wife of Gen. W. T. Sherman,
of the United States army.

George Kinnear, a Scotchman, came to Brownsville
before 1788, and purchased several lots located on the



east, south, and west of the Public Ground. This
jiroperty passed to Polly Kinnear, and later to Wil-
liam Coek, who sold to J. W. Jeffries. Kinnear was
associated in business with James Lang (the auction-
eer), who came here in 1790.

Thomas McKibben was in Brownsville as early as
1788, in which year there was recorded a deed to him
from Thomas Brown, conveying certain property in
the town. He was a merchant on Market Street, and
a justice of the peace, also prothonotary of Fayette
County in 1821. No descendants of his are now in

Samuel Workman came here as early as 1790, and
started a tannery where now stands the residence of
Samuel Steele. James Workman, a son, afterwards
built the jiresent Steele tannery. He also kept the
tavern, now the Girard House, at the head of Market

The Brownsville post-office was established Jan. 1,
1795, with Jacob Bowman as postmaster. Basil
Brashear was here in the same year, and soon after
built the stone house now occupied by Mrs. Wesley
Frost, opening it as a tavern. This was for years the
leading public-house of Brownsville.

Adam Jacobs came in about 1795. He was a mer-
chant, and kept a store on Water Street, next below
where the rolling-mill stands. A daughter of his
married her father's clerk, a Mr. Beggs, with whom
she removed to New Lisbon, Ohio. Adam Jacobs,
Jr., became a merchant in the town, and father of the
third Adam, now known as Capt. Adam Jacobs, who
was born in Brownsville, Jan. 7, 1817. He learned
the trade of coppersmith and tinner, but commenced
steamboating early in life, taking command of the
steamer " Exchange" in 1840, when he was only
twenty-three years of age. Afterwards he com-
manded several boats, the last of which was the " Niag-
ara," in 1847. Since that time he has been engaged
in the building of steamboats, of which about one
hundred and twenty have been built for him. He
has always been an active business man, and by his
industry and remarkable business tact has accumu-
lated a handsome. fortune. There are few, if any,
who have done more than he to advance the business
interests of Brownsville, and to-day he is accounted
one of the most enterprising as well as substantial
men of the Monongahela Valley. He has a resi-
dence in Brownsville, and another upon his fine es-
tate of " East Riverside," on the Monongahela, in
the township of Luzerne.

In 1796, Elijah Clark was engaged in boat-build-
ing in Brownsville. His yard was on Water Street,
north of the site of the United States Hotel. At the
same time Capt. T. Shane advertised boat-sheds and
boat-yards for sale or to let.

A coppersmith and tin-working shop was carried
on here in 1797 by Anthony & Bowman.

William Crawford was a merchant in Brownsville
in (and probably before) the year 1800. His store

was on Market Street, where Jacob Sawyer now lives.
His wife was a daughter of Thomas Brown.

Valentine Giesey, the son of a Lutheran clergyman
who emigrated to America in 1776, and settled at
Berlin, Somerset Co., Pa., where this son was born,
came to Brownsville about the year 1800, and went
into trade here. On the breaking out of the war of
1812 he entered the service as a sergeant in Capt.
Joseph Wadsworth's company, of which he afterwards
became captain. After his return from the war he re-
opened the mercantile business, and also became very
popular as a military man and a politician. He died
in 1835, and was buried in the Episcopal churchyard.
He had two sons and two daughters, but none are
now living.

James Blaine was a man who traveled quite exten-
sively in Europe and South America, and afterwards,
in 1804, settled in Brownsville, where he opened a
store, and where he was also for many years a justice
of the peace. He was a man of dignified bearing,
and held in high esteem by his fellow-townsmen. In
1818 he removed to Washington County, where he
lived during the remainder of his life.

George Graff, a carpenter and cabinet-maker, came
from Allentown, Pa., to Brownsville in 1806. He
lived on Front Street, where his son Joseph now

George Johnston, a native of Monaghan County,
Ireland, landed in Philadelphia with his wife in
August, 1805, and thence moved to Hickory, Wash-
ington Co., Pa., where his uncle resided. There he
remained until the following spring, his son John
having been born in the mean time. Mr. Johnston
then removed to Brownsville, where he commenced
business as a weaver in a house that stood where Dr.
J. R. Patton now lives. He had a family of eight
children, of whom John was the eldest. He (John)
learned the trade of carpenter with George Graff. He
has since been prominent in the affairs of Brownsville,
and has often been elected to offices in the borough.
He is still living here, on the corner of Morgan and
Front Streets. Two other sons (William and James)
and a daughter of George Johnston are also living in

In 1807, Alexander Simpson was established in
Brownsville as a manufacturer of surveyors' instru-
ments and other fine work of similar character.

Abraham Underwood, a Quaker, left Baltimore in
1808, with his wife and three children, bound for Cin-
cinnati, over the then usual route by way of Browns-
ville. Arriving at this i)oint, and finding something of
a Quaker settlement here and in the vicinity, they
abandoned their original intention and remained in
Brownsville. Mr. Underwood was by trade a tailor,
and he soon opened a shop on Front Street, west of
Jacob's Alley. The family remained in Brownsville
from 1808 until 1834, when he removed to Mononga-
hela City, Pa.

Philip Worley came from Virginia to Brownsville



about 1808, and took up the business of boat-building.
His motlier kei>t a cake-shop in the " Neck," where
the vacant lot is, just below the hardware store of
James Slocum. Worley died a few j-ears later, and
his widow married Thomas Brown, son of Basil
Brown, Sr. Daniel Worle}', a son of Philip, was a
clerk in Robert Clarke's store. He married a daughter
of James Tonilinson, and in 1815 was employed as
master of one of the river-boats owned by his father-
in-law. In 1823 he and Tomlinson, with their fami-
lies, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they settled,
and where their descendants are still living.

Eli Abrams settled here about 1812. His grand-
father, Henry Abrams, was a settler at Turkey Foot
as early as 1768, being mentioned as such in the re-
port of the Kev. John Steele, made in that year. Eli,
on his arrival at Brownsville, was employed in the
nail-factory of Jacob Bowman, on Front Street.
Afterwards he married a daughter of Martin Tiernan,
and kept a store on the " Neck." He became a jus-
tice of the peace, and filled that office with honor for
many years. Two of his sons (Dr. James Abrams,
dentist, and Decatur Abrams) are now living in
Brownsville. Another son, Lewis Abrams, lives
about a mile outside the borough.

George Dawson was a son of Nicholas, and grand-
son of George and Lienor Dawson, who were settlers
in the township of Union (now North Union). Their
son Nicholas removed to Kentucky, where his son
George was reared to manhood. About ISlo he
(George) returned to Fayette County, Pa., and settled
in Brownsville with his wife and tw(.i children ( Joliii
L. Dawson, who afterwards became a prominent pub-
lic man, and a daughter, who married George Ash-
man), occupying a house on Front Street, now owned
by Mrs. Sweitzer. He was the Brownsville agent fcir
a salt company, and became interested in tlie con-
struction of the National road, being the contractor
for the building of the heavy stone-work on the river-
side of that road in its approaches to the Mononga-
hela. He was also the owner of large tracts of land
in Ohio. His children, besides the two before men-
tioned, were as follows: Louisa, who married Gen.
George W. Cass; Ellen, who after her sister's death
became the second wife of Gen. Cass; Samuel Ken-
nedy Dawson, who became an otlicer in the United
States army, and is now on the retired list, living at
Eastport, Me. ; Mary, who died at the age of about
twenty years; Elizabeth, married Alfred Howell, of
Uniontown ; Catharine, married Alpheus E. Willson,
of Uniontown, president judge of Fayette County
court; and George, the youngest, who married a
daughter of Alfred Patterson, of Pittsburgh, and is
now residing in Louisiana. George Dawson, the
father of this numerous family, died in Brownsville a
few years ago. None of his descendants are now
living in the borough.

John Suowdon, a young Englishman, came to
Brownsville about 1820, witli a wife and two chil-

dren. He was a blacksmith by trade, and commenced
work here with John Weaver, who, however, was a
man of very little account, and the work of the shop
was chiefly done by Snowdon. His industry soon at-
tracted the attention of George Hogg (himself also
an Englishman), who asked young Snowdon if he
could make an English oven. His reply was that he
could if he had the necessary iron, which was there-
upon procured for him by Mr. Hogg, and the oven
was produced as desired. At that time stoves were
nearly or wholly unknown in this section, and Mr.
Snowdon was called on to make several of them,
which he did. After a time Mr. Hogg asked him
why he did not start a shop of his own, and received
the very natural reply that it was because he had not
the capital. Mr. Hogg then furnished him with an
anvil, bellows, and all other needed articles which he
could not make, and he opened a blacksmith-shop
where John R. Dutton's store and residence now is.
The new shop received an unexpectedly large patron-
age, and many articles in the machinery line were re-
quired, whereupon, after a short time, a machine-shop
was added. At first the necessary castings were pro-
cured from William Cock, at Bridgeport, but it was not
long before Snowdon added a foundry and pattern-shop
to his other works. In 1827 he built at these works the
engines for the steamer " Monongahela." In 1831 he
built larger simps where the rolling-mill now stands.
These shops were l)urned and rebuilt below the site of
the rolling iiiills. In them the engines of the iron-
clad '• Manayunk" were built. The building of the
rolling-mill and its subsequent history will be found
I in another place in the history of the borough.

Mr. Snowdon, who was for a period of more than
fifty years a resident of Brownsville, and in the ac-
tive jiart of his life one of the most enterprising men
of the borough, was born at Martin, near Scarborough,
in Yorkshire, England, March 2, 1796, and died in
, Brownsville on the 2oth of January, 1875. His sou,
J. N. Snowdon, is the present po.stmaster of Browns-

Henry J. Rigden, a " watchmaker," came from
Georgetown, D. C, in September, 1817, and opened
a shop on Front Street, Brownsville. He was after-
wards elected justice of the peace, and filled the of-
fice for fifteen years. For several years he was in the
State service as clerk for the superintendent of canals
at Erie, Pa., but had his home at Brownsville during
that term. He also held the office of postmaster at
Brownsville during the administration of President
Polk. He still resides in Brownsville, wliich has been
his home for sixty-four years.

Henry Sweitzer, long a prominent citizen of Browns-
ville, was a native of Doylestown, Pa., and at the age
of sixteen years removed to Washington County, Md.,
where he remained for many years, during which time
he was elected sheriff of that county and member of
the Legislature. In 1818 he married Ann E. Bowman,
daughter of Jacob Bowman, and removed to Browns-



ville, entering at once into mercautile business and
ic;il estate transactions. He built the stone house on
Water Street (now the United States Hotel), which
was his residence for many years, and in which all
his children were born. One of his sons, Gen. J. B.
Sweitzer, of Pittsburgh, is now prothonotary of the
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Western District. In
the war of the Rebellion he entered the service in July,
1861, and became colonel of the Sixty-second Pennsyl-
vania Regiment, succeeding Col. Samuel W. Black.
As senior colonel he commanded the Second Brigade,
First Division, Fifth Army Corps, Army of Potomac,
and served through the campaigns of McClellan,
Durnside, Hooker, Meade, and Grant to the close of
the conflict. Nelson B. Sweitzer, also a son of Henry,
graduated at West Point in 1853, and entered the reg-
ular army. He served in McClellan's campaigns as
personal aide on the staff of that general, and was
afterwards placed in command of cavalry by Gen. P.
H. Sheridan. He is now (June, 1881) in command
of Fort Clarke, on the Rio Grande, in Texas. Wil-
liam, another son of Henry Sweitzer, and a native of
Brownsville, is living in Washington, Pa.


Brownsville was erected a borough by an act of
Assembly passed Dec. 14, 1814, and approved Jan. 9,
1815, by which act it was provided and declared —

"That the town of Brownsville, in the county of
Fayette, shall be, and the same is hereby, erected into
a borough, which shall be called 'the Borough of
Brownsville,' bounded and limited as follows : Begin-
ning at the east abutment of Jonah Cadwallader's mill-
dam," . . . and running thence by various courses
and distances to low-water mark on the Monongahela
River at the lower end of the town ; thence up the
river to the mouth of Dunlap's Creek, and up the
Creek to Cadwallader's mill-dam, the place of begin-

The act provided that the electors of the borough
should meet at the house of Jacob Copland, and there
elect one chief burgess, one assistant burgess, seven re-
putable citizens to form a Town Council, and one high
constable. Accordingly, "at an election held at the
house of Jacob Coplan, in the Borough of Brownsville,
on the first Tuesday of April, a.d. 1815, agreeably to
an act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth
ot Pennsylvania, passed the 14th day of December,
1814, for incorporating said Borough," the following-
named persons were elected : Chief Burgess, Thomas
McKibben ; Assistant Burgess, PhilipShaffner; Coun-
cilmen, William Hogg, Basil Brashear, John S. Du-
gan, John McCadden, George Hogg, Jr., Israel Mil-
ler, George Dawson ; High Constable, John Jacques.
These were the first officers of the borough of Browns-

"April 8, 1815. — The Burgess and Town Council
met at the office of Michael Sowers, Esq., and took

the oaths of office, and proceeded to the Council Room
in Basil Brashear's tavern, where William Hogg was
elected president of the Council, and John McC.
Hazlip, clerk."

At the April tervii of the Court of Quarter Sessions
of Fayette County in 1817 a petition of a number of
inhabitants was presented, praying for the erection of
a township to be called Brownsville from a part of
Redstone township, to include the borough of Browns-
ville and a small territory beyond the limits of the
borough and east of it, and to extend from Dunlap's
Creek to Redstone Creek. Upon this petition the
court appointed Jacob Bowman, Esq., John Fulton,
and Griffith Roberts viewers to examine into the
matter and report. In August of the same year this
committee reported to the court that they had per-
formed the duty assigned them, and agreed on the
boundaries of the proposed township of Brownsville,
to be erected from the territory of Redstone, viz. :
" Beginning at the mouth of Dunlap's Creek ; thence
up the same with the meanders thereof to the west
end of Miller's mill-dam ;" thence by a great number
of recited courses and distances from Dunlap's Creek
to Redstone Creek; "thence down said Creek to the
Monongahela River, and up the said River with the
meanders thereof to the place of beginning." This
report was accepted and confirmed, and at the Novem-
ber sessions of the same year the court ordered the
erection of the new township, with bounds as reported,
" to be called Brownsville Township."


The plat known as the Public Ground in Browns-
ville borough appears to have been a matter of dis-
pute in early years. In the year 1807, Jonathan
Miller, John Sheldon, and Henry Wise gave notice
that they had been " authorized to erect a Market-
House on a certain piece of ground in the town of
Brownsville known as the Public Ground," where-
upon they were notified and warned not to erect any
building on that ground until an investigation should
be had, and a decision rendered by the proper tribu-
nal. The protest came from Basil and Wilkes Brown,
executors of Thomas Brown, deceased. A public
notice by these executors to the effect that" they hold
an entrust on that piece of ground" is found in the
Genius ,,/ IJbniij of May 4th in that year.

Nothing is found in reference to any official action
being taken in consequence of the protest of Thomas
Brown's executors, but it is certain that a market-
house was built on the ground in question, and that
it was used as the public market-house of the town
until 1815, when a new one was erected, but the old
one was soon after repaired, and continued in use for
about twelve years longer.

The first action taken concerning the erection of
the second market-house in 1815 has not been found.


but that the erection had been decided on, and a site
fixed for it, is shown by a resolution of the Council
on the 15th of April in that j-eat, "That the centre |
of the Market-House be in the centre of Market j
Street, opposite the division line between Jacob Bow-
njan's two lots, which lie on the southwest side of [
said street ;" and also by the tenor of a petition to
the Council signed by thirty-eight freeholders, dated
May 5, 1815, praying for a change of the site of the
proposed market-house "as formerly fixed by the
Council." A vote of the Council on the question of
removal of site resulted in the decision that it should
remain as previously fixed upon.

On the 2(1 of June following, "It was agreed that a
Market-House be built on the Scite last agreed on, of
the following dini.n>ion-, viz.: fifty feet long and
eighteen feet wiili- from out to out of the pillars.
The roof to be supported by ten pillars, five at each
side. The Roof to project four feet on each side out-
side of the iiillars : the bottoms or bases of the pillars
to be built with stone and lime-mortar, sunk two feet
in the gnmnd, ami to rise one foot above the surface,
tweiitv-two inches s;|uare, and to be raised six feet six
inches above the stone, with brick and liuie-mortar,
twenty-two inches square." It was also " Agreed
that an advertisement be put in the American Tele-
graph for mechanieks to hand in proposals for doing
the work to the Council at Basil Brashear's [tavern],
on the 10th inst., betwixt the hours of 2 and 4 o'cl'k
P.M." On the 4th of August, 181-'), " A Contract was
made with John M. Hazlip for Compleating the
Market-House, for which he is to receive Three hun-
dred and fifty dollai-s, the work to be done, in a sub-
stantial, workmanlike manner, against the first of
October next."

Dec. 2(5, ISlo, "The Market-House being Com-
pleated, the Council appointed George Graff", John
Laybourn, Oritlith Roberts, and Ephraim Butcher
Referees to view tlie work and report to the Coun-
cil." Part t)f tliis committee reported, Jan. 5, 1816,
" that the work throughout the whole is done in a
substantial and workmanlike manner." This report
was signed by John L:iyboiirn, George Graff, and
Grifiith Rolierts. But the other member of the view-
ing committee, Ephraim Butcher, certified only that
" I, as one of the referees chosen. to examine the work
of the new :\Iarket-IIoiise, have done so, and do cer-
tify that in my opinion the mason-work is sufiiciently
substantial," thereby inviting the inference that, in
his opinion, the other parts of the work were not
done according to the requirements of the contract.
It was accepted, however, and on that day (January
5th) a committee was appointed "to level the mar-
ket-house floor, fix chains across the ends," and attend
to certain other small matters.

Feb. 23, 1816, the Council passed an ordinance
" That from and after the loth of March Market shall
be held in the Market House on Market Street of
said borough on Wednesday and Saturday of each

week ; the Market hours shall be from daylight until
nine o'clock a.m. on each of said days in the months
of March, October, November, December, January,
and February, and from daylight until eight o'clock
A.M. on each of the aforesaid days in the months of
April, May, June, July, August, and September." '
The commodities to be deemed articles of marketing
were meats, salted or fresh, eggs, butter, poultry,
cheese, lard, tallow, candles, fruit, and all kinds of
vegetables, but not grain. A fine of one dollar was
imposed on each and every person buying or sell-
ing marketable articles at any other place than the
market-house during market hours. The stalls on
the southwest side of the building were to be occupied
by the butchers and fishmongers at a reasonable rate,
fixed at S5 each per annum.

James Workman and Nathan Smith were empow-
ered " to enclose the Market House with a pale fence
and a gate at each end, and to have the sides so se-
cured as to prevent sheep, hogs, and geese from en-
tering the same."

In August, 1817, the superintendent of the work on
the National road (then in process of construction)
requested the removal of the market-house in Market
Street, it being in the location of the road, and so situ-
ated as to impede the progress of the workmen. On
the 9th of that month the Council "Resolved that the
materials of the Market House be o2"ered at public
sale on Wednesday next,'-' the Council reserving the
Stone, Brick, and Gates for the use of the Market
House in Front Street," meaning the old building
erected for that purpose on the Public Ground in 1807.
This old market-house was then repaired, and used
by the people of the borough until the erection of the
present market-house. Quit-rents were paid on it to
Sally Brown as late as the year 1844, when a bill of
six years' rent was i)resented to the Council and ordered
paid. The preseut brick market-house was built in
1829. An addition to it was projected in 1853, and
the Council passed a resolution to that effect, but it
was not done, and the building as it stands to-day (at
the corner of Market Street and Bank Alley) is the
same as when erected fifty-two years ago.

The grading of the National road, in 1817-18, ren-
dered Front Street almost impassable, by reason of
the filling at the upper end and the excavation at
the lower. The borough board ordered that street
graded to the National road, to make it passable. At
a Council meeting held June 17, 1818, it was resolved,
on motion of George Dawson and Valentine Geisey,
that the sum of $4000 be obtained as a loan from
bank, and that the same be equally expended on
Front, Market, and Water Streets,— Front Street to
be graded forty-five feet wide. On the 21st of Sep-
tember in the same year the Council considered an
offer from John Bogle to contract "To pave Front
Street for Si25 per perch, running measure."

1 Rcpraled May II. IS20.

= Tlio timber and roof ivorc sold to Elijali Clarke for $46.


Sept. 23, 1819, James L.

Bowman and D. B. Bayliss

Adam Jacobs.

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 97 of 193)