The Sterritts

John Sterritt was born in Virginia to foreign-born parents in about 1802. His wife Jane Stewart Sterritt was born in Ireland in about 1815. By 1850, John and Jane Sterritt were married and living in Allegheny City, where John Sterritt operated a dry goods store on Federal Street. Records of the 1850 census show that John and Jane Sterritt had four children, and also shared their home with Jane Sterritt’s sister and two other persons. In 1850, the Sterritts’ children were James S., ten, and William H., six, both attending school, and Robert, three, and Jane M., one. Jane Sterritt’s sister was Rachel Stewart, 29, who had no occupation. Also living with the family in 1850 were Jane Longhay, 13, born in Ireland, and James Vanweller, 20. Jane Longhay’s relation to the Sterritt family is unknown. James Vanweller was a salesman who boarded with the family.

The Sterritt family belonged to the First United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny for many years, including during the time that they lived at 908 Beech Avenue. The church was located on Union Avenue in what later became the Allegheny Center Mall area.

By 1856, the Sterritt family lived at the northeast corner of the North Commons (now North Avenue) and Federal Street. In the late 1850s, John Sterritt closed or sold his dry goods store and became a property assessor. Within a few years, Sterritt was a real estate agent and rent collector with an office at 70 Diamond Street in Allegheny. Sterritt’s sons William and Robert began working with him as clerks in the late 1860s.

The Sterritt family lived at North Avenue and Federal Street until 1868, when the city directory listed John Sterritt as living on Beech Avenue near Grant Avenue (now Galveston Avenue). Sterritt was listed at 53 (908) Beech Avenue beginning in 1870.

Records of the 1870 census show that John and Jane Sterritt lived at 908 Beech Avenue with two of their sons, Jane Sterritt’s sister Rachel Stewart, and a servant. William Sterritt, 25, was reported to be a bookkeeper, and Robert Sterritt, 21, was a salesman. Rachel Stewart, 49, had no occupation. The Sterritts’ servant was Amanda Hopkins, 18, who had been born in Pennsylvania.

The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that John Sterritt owned real estate worth $25,000 and had a “personal estate” or cash savings of $1400. Jane Sterritt owned real estate worth $12,000 and had no personal estate. The Sterritts’ total assets of $38,400 were comparable to around $1.2 million or more in the early 21st century.

John Sterritt’s real estate office moved to 40 North Diamond Street in the early 1870s. At around that time, William H. Sterritt became a notary public at the same address. John Sterritt worked as a real estate agent until he died in late September or early October 1876. After Sterritt’s death, Jane Sterritt and other family members continued to live at 908 Beech Avenue.

The 1880 manuscript census listed William H. Sterritt as the head of the household at 908 Beech Avenue. Sterritt had married by that time, and he and his wife Jennie had a son, John C., five. Jennie Sterritt, 27, had been born in Pennsylvania and was of Irish descent. Jane Sterritt, 63, and Rachel Stewart, 59, still lived at 908 Beech Avenue in 1880.

In the early 1880s William Sterritt was a partner in Sterritt & Algeo, real estate agents, at 49 North Diamond Street. Sterritt’s partner was W.W. Algeo of Armandale Street in Allegheny City.

In 1885, Jane Sterritt prepared to sell 908 Beech Avenue. A December 8, 1885 advertisement in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette informed the public:

FOR SALE – 53 BEECH ST., NEAR GRANT ave, Allegheny. Ground 40 x 100 to alley; two-story brick house, 8 rooms, attics, laundry, bath, range, natural gas, stable. A good substantial residence. A. LEGGATE, Agent, 31 Federal St.

Jane Sterritt sold 908 Beech Avenue in 1886. She lived in the Pittsburgh area, possibly with her son William in Bellevue, until she died in 1893.