The Stoners

Christian L. Stoner was born in November 1823 in Millersville, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His parents were born in New York State and Pennsylvania. Stoner became a building contractor as a young man, and constructed homes in and around Lancaster for a number of years. He served one or two terms as Lancaster County Clerk of Courts, beginning in 1857.

Christian L. Stoner married Lizzie Hostetter in 1847. Lizzie Hostetter was born in November 1822 in Pennsylvania, to parents born in Pennsylvania. Their children included David H. Stoner, who was born in December 1847 and lived at 849 Beech Avenue in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. David H. Stoner and his wife, Mary Dilgen Stoner, were married in 1869.

The Stoner family left Lancaster County in the 1860s. The family may have lived in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1872, when Elizabeth Stoner (usually known as Bessie), one of four children of David H. and Mary Stoner, was born in that city. Other children of David H. and Mary Stoner, all of whom later lived at 849 Beech Avenue, were Mary, born in March 1871, Gertrude, born in April 1876, and Anne, born in January 1878.

Christian L. Stoner was first listed in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1876, as the superintendent of the Columbia Conduit Company. Stoner lived on Allegheny Avenue near West North Avenue. David H. Stoner began living in Allegheny City by 1880, when the city directory listed him as a clerk living on Pennsylvania Avenue in Manchester.

In the late 1870s, Christian L. Stoner became a partner in Stoner & McClure, proprietor of the Pittsburgh Saw Mills, which produced lumber, nail kegs and boxes at 27th Street and the Allegheny Valley Railroad in the Strip District. His partner was Alexander McClure of 946 Beech Avenue. Stoner remained a partner in Stoner & McClure until he retired in about 1890. During that time, Stoner was also a director of the Pittsburgh Gas Company and the Smithfield Street Bridge Company, which commissioned construction of the Smithfield Street Bridge as a privately owned toll bridge in the early 1880s.

David H. Stoner became treasurer of the Pittsburgh Gas Company in the early 1880s.

Christian L. Stoner purchased 849 Beech Avenue in October 1887. He never lived in the house, and remained at 1101 Allegheny Avenue for the rest of his life. He apparently bought the house for David H. Stoner, who lived there with his wife and children between 1887 and 1904.

The 1889 Pittsburgh and Allegheny Blue Book, a directory of socially prominent residents of both cities, included listings of the families of Christian L. and Lizzie Stoner and David H. and Mary Stoner. Christian Stoner appears to have been among a small minority of men who had any type of blue-collar background who were listed in the Blue Book.

Elizabeth (Bessie) Stoner, a daughter of David H. and Mary Stoner, married Francis E. Gaither, a draftsman, on June 9, 1892. Elizabeth Stoner was 19, and Francis Gaither was 23. The Pittsburgh Press mentioned the wedding in its social column the same day, describing the bride’s gown and reporting that a reception was to be held “at the home of the bride’s parents” at 849 Beech Avenue. The couple, later residents of 849 Beech Avenue, lived on Coltart Square in Oakland for about a decade after they were married.

Pittsburgh directories listed David H. Stoner as treasurer of the Pittsburgh Gas Company until the mid-1890s; Stoner was listed as a bookkeeper in the late 1890s, and subsequently as a clerk. Directories did not name Stoner’s employer after he became a bookkeeper.

Records of the 1900 census list six residents of 849 Beech Avenue: David H. Stoner, 52, a clerk, enumerated as the owner of the house; Mary Stoner, 52; and Mary, 29, Bessie, 27, Gertrude, 24 and Anne, 22. The enumeration of Bessie Stoner Gaither at 849 Beech Avenue in 1900 appears to have been erroneous, as she had been married and living in Oakland for eight years.

No servants or other unrelated persons lived at 849 Beech Avenue at the time of the 1900 census. Census records show that in 1900, at least half of all middle-class families living in Allegheny City employed at least one servant who lived in their home. It is possible that the Stoner family employed one or more servants who did not live in their home, or were between servants when the census was taken.

David H. and Mary Stoner and their unmarried daughters moved from 849 Beech Avenue to live with Christian Stoner at 1101 Allegheny Avenue in about 1904. At around the same time, Francis E. and Bessie Stoner Gaither moved to 849 Beech Avenue from Oakland. The Gaithers had one child, David S., who was seven years old in 1904.

By the early 1900s, Francis E. Gaither was a patent attorney and notary. His office was in the Farmer’s Bank Building at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, downtown, in 1903, and moved to the Frick Building by 1907.

Christian L. Stoner died in April 1910, leaving 849 Beech Avenue to David H. Stoner. David H. Stoner continued to live at 1101 Allegheny Avenue after his father’s death, and Francis E. and Bessie Stoner Gaither remained at 849 Beech Avenue. The 1910 census enumerated three residents of 849 Beech Avenue: Francis E. Gaither, 41, a patent attorney, Bessie S. Gaither, 36 and David S. Gaither, 13.

Francis E. Gaither died in about 1914, when he was 45 years old. Available local records do not provide information on the date or cause of his death. Bessie and David S. Gaither lived at 849 Beech Avenue through about 1921. The 1920 Pittsburgh directory listed David S. Gaither as a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University).

Records of the 1920 census contain no information on residents of 849 Beech Avenue in that year, suggesting the house was temporarily vacant at the time of the census. David H. Stoner died in 1921, leaving 849 Beech Avenue to Bessie Gaither. Stoner had been widowed several years earlier, according to his obituary.

Bessie Gaither sold 849 Beech Avenue in February 1922, and appears to have left Pittsburgh with her son after she sold the house. She was not listed in Pittsburgh directories published in 1922 and in later years, and the Allegheny County estate index contains no information on her death.