info@alleghenywest.org
806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

The McKelvys

Hugh McKelvy was born in 1817 in Wilkinsburg, and was raised in Allegheny City (now the Northside) from the age of three. McKelvy probably grew up near the present site of Allegheny General Hospital, as his obituary reported that he attended a log school building that stood on or near the hospital’s present site.

Hugh and Sarah McKelvy were married by the early 1840s. Sarah McKelvy was born in 1821 in Pennsylvania. Wesley McKelvy, the first child of Hugh and Sarah McKelvy, was bom in 1844. He was followed by William in 1847, Emma in 1852, Ella in 1856, Dale in 1858 and Hugh Jr. in 1860.

By 1850, Hugh McKelvy was employed as an engineer, and lived with his wife and children on Reedsdale Street (then Rebecca Street) in Allegheny City. McKelvy became a riverboat captain within a short time. The McKelvy family moved from Reedsdale Street to a house that Hugh and Sarah McKelvy owned at 208 West North Avenue (then an un-numbered house on Allegheny City’s North Commons) in the mid-1850s.

In 1859, McKelvy became a partner in Burgess & McKelvy, grocers, located on Forbes Avenue (then Diamond Street) in Downtown Pittsburgh. McKelvy’s partner was John Burgess of Sandusky Street in what is now the Allegheny Center Mall area. McKelvy remained in that business until 1862.

The 1860 census of population enumerated seven members of the McKelvy family – Hugh, 43, Sarah, 39, Wesley, 16, William, 13, Emma, eight, Ella, four and Dale, two – in their home on the North Commons. The census reported that Hugh McKelvy owned real estate worth $4,000, probably the value of the McKelvy family’s home, and had a personal estate of $1,200.

The 1863 Pittsburgh city directory listed Hugh McKelvy as a steam boat captain, and as a partner in two businesses: McMahon & McKelvy, oil refiners, of 44th Street at the Allegheny Valley Railroad in Lawrenceville, and McKelvy & Moore, barrel manufacturers, of Diamond Street in Allegheny City. McKelvy may have found the oil refinery to be more profitable than his other enterprises, and ended his involvement in riverboats and barrel manufacturing by 1864.

Hugh McKelvy’s 1863 entry into the oil industry came four years after the discovery of oil at Titusville in northwestern Pennsylvania. McKelvy and thousands of other men intent on profiting from extracting, transporting, refining, and selling oil invested their time and available capital in this industry. Pittsburgh shared in the oil boom as a center of river transportation and as the site of several refineries. During that time, a number of Pittsburgh men traveled to growing northwestern Pennsylvania communities such as Titusville, Franklin, Oil City, and Pithole to participate in the oil business. Hugh McKelvy appears to have enjoyed moderate success in the highly risky and capital-intensive oil industry, and was not among those who made or lost fortunes.

In 1864, the McKelvy family lived at 1203 Boyle Street in Allegheny City. The family moved to a new house they had built at 846 Western Avenue in 1865. By 1865, Hugh McKelvy operated an oil depot or refinery at Ninth Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard, Downtown.

In 1866, the Pittsburgh city directory listed Hugh McKelvy as an oil dealer on Fort Duquesne Boulevard, but with no home listing. It appears likely that McKelvy’s work in the oil industry may have caused him to leave the city in order to tend to his business interests in Pennsylvania’s oil towns for a short time. McKelvy returned to Allegheny City by 1867, when he was appointed Allegheny City postmaster. He held that position while living at 942 Western Avenue in 1868 and 1869. McKelvy could walked to work in the Allegheny City Post Office, in the city hall on Diamond Square in the present Allegheny Center Mall area, or could have taken one of the horse-drawn streetcars that passed in front of his house.

McKelvy returned to the oil business in 1870, as a partner in McKelvy, Brother & Company, at Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Eighth Street. McKelvy’s partners included his brother, William M. McKelvy, of 44th Street in Lawrenceville. After selling 942 Western Avenue in early 1870, the McKelvy family began renting a house at 846 Beech Avenue. The 1870 census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, shows that Hugh McKelvy owned no real estate and had a personal estate of $1,000.

Hugh McKelvy and his wife and children lived in a house they owned at 910 Beech Avenue, or in an earlier house on the site, between 1871 and 1874. Hugh McKelvy was listed in directories as an oil broker and oil merchant during that time. McKelvy did not appear in Pittsburgh city directories published after 1874. Available records do not document where the McKelvy family went immediately after leaving Pittsburgh.

Hugh McKelvy died on May 24, 1894, at the home of a daughter on Linden Street in Allegheny City. An obituary published in the Pittsburgh Press stated that McKelvy had been a resident of Parker’s Landing, Armstrong County, a center of oil production.

The Rhodeses

Joshua Rhodes was born in England on March 19, 1924, and immigrated to the United States in 1830. Rhodes’ family moved to Allegheny City in 1832.

Eliza Rhodes, formerly Eliza Haslett, was born in May 1833 in Lawrenceville, then a borough near Pittsburgh.

Biographical materials indicate that Joshua Rhodes worked for Benjamin Brown, a grocer, as a teenager and opened a grocery in 1844 at age 20 on First Avenue near Smithfield Street. Rhodes’ store was destroyed in the fire of 1845, and he subsequently rebuilt his store at Fourth Avenue and Smithfield Street.

Joshua Rhodes was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory as early as 1847, when he was listed as a fruiter and confectioner at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Smithfield Street. By 1850, Rhodes formed Joshua Rhodes & Company, fruiterers, at 6 Wood Street. Rhodes lived at 30 Smithfield Street in 1850. By 1852, Rhodes was a cracker baker at 189 First Street and also operated Joshua Rhodes & Company, fruiters and confectioners, at 6 Wood Street.

Joshua Rhodes began operating a brewery, Rhodes & Verner, by 1857. Rhodes and Verner was located at the corner of Penn Avenue and Barkers Alley in Pittsburgh. In 1857, Rhodes lived on First Avenue, and in 1858, he boarded at the Scott House, at Irwin Street and Duquesne Way in Pittsburgh. Rhodes moved to 249 Penn Avenue by 1860.

The 1860 manuscript census indicated that Joshua Rhodes and his family lived in Pittsburgh’s Fourth Ward. Rhodes, 37, was a brewery malster, and his wife Eliza, 31, did not work outside the home. The census showed that Joshua Rhodes owned no real estate and had a “personal estate” of $32,000.

The 1860 census indicated that Joshua and Eliza Rhodes’ children were Lucy B., five, Ida S., four and Charles R., two. Information contained in the 1870 manuscript census suggests that Ida S. was Ida S. Williams, a daughter of Elizabeth Williams, apparently a close relative of the Rhodes family, and that Lucy B. was Lucy Brown, who also lived with the Rhodes family in 1870.

Joshua Rhodes’ mother Elizabeth, 65, and a housemaid, Agatha Durkin, 20, also lived with the family in 1870. Eliza Rhodes had been born in England, and Agatha Durkin had been born in Ireland.

Joshua Rhodes moved to at 10 Hancock Street in Pittsburgh by 1862 and lived at 231 Penn Avenue in 1864 and 1865.

Joshua Rhodes moved to Allegheny between 1865 and 1866. The 1866 city directory listed Rhodes at the corner of Western Avenue and Bagaley Lane (now Bidwell Street). After moving to Allegheny, Rhodes continued operating his brewery in Pittsburgh.

Rhodes was listed as living at Bidwell and Sheffield Streets in Manchester in 1868 and at 156 North Avenue in 1869 and 1870.

The 1870 manuscript census reported that Joshua and Eliza Rhodes and their family lived in the First Ward of Allegheny. Joshua Rhodes, 46, was a malster and Eliza Rhodes, 40, did not work. The census indicated that the Rhodes’ children were William, seven, Mary, five and Annie, five months.

Also living with the Rhodes family in 1870 were Mrs. Lilly (sic) Rhodes, 76, Mrs. Elizabeth Williams, 40, Ida Williams, 14 and Lucy Brown, 15.

The 1870 census indicated that Joshua Rhodes owned no real estate and had a “personal estate” of $15,000. In 1870, Mrs. Lucy Williams owned real estate valued at $20,000 and had a “personal estate” of $1,000.

During the 1870’s, Joshua Rhodes continued to operate his brewery, which became known as the Pittsburgh Brewery. In the late 1870’s, Rhodes became president of the Pennsylvania Tube Works, with offices at 2 Duquesne Alley.

The 1880 manuscript census reported that the family of Joshua and Eliza Rhodes lived at 95 Western Avenue. Joshua Rhodes, 56, was a brewer and Eliza Rhodes, 46, had no occupation. William B. Rhodes, 17, worked as a clerk in a pipe house, Mary H., 15, was a student, Annie, 10, did not attend school and Walter J., eight, attended school.

In 1880, the Rhodes’ servants who lived at 95 Western Avenue were Katie Johns, 27, who had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Germany and Emma Edey, 19, who had been born in Pennsylvania to parents also born in Pennsylvania. Both servants were single.

The 1880 census indicated that no residents of 95 Western Avenue were ill or temporarily disabled.

Joshua Rhodes served as president of the Allegheny National Bank during the 1870’s, and as vice-president of the bank during the late 1800’s.

The 1890 census, which would provide information on residents of 939 Western Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a fire following its completion.

In 1900, the manuscript census reported that Joshua Rhodes, 76, Eliza J. Rhodes, 67, and their family and servants lived at 939 Western Avenue. The census gave Joshua Rhodes’ occupation as “capitalist”. Eliza Rhodes did not work. Eliza Rhodes had had five children, with four still living at the time of the census.

In 1900, three of the Rhodes’ children were single and lived at home. William R. Rhodes, 37, was single and worked as manager of a tube works. Mary H. Rhodes, 34, and Anna J. Rhodes, 29, had no occupation.

In 1900, three servants, all of whom were black, lived at 939 Western Avenue. The servants were Rebecca Stevenson, 38, Lizzie Rowe, 26 and Mazie Brown, 26. Rebecca Stevenson, a cook, had been born in North Carolina to parents born in North Carolina. Lizzie Rowe, a waitress, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She had been married three years and had had one child, who had died. Her husband did not live with her. Mazie Brown, a servant, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Virginia.

The census also reported that all residents of 939 Western Avenue were able to read and write.

Joshua Rhodes died on January 5, 1909.

The 1910 census showed that Eliza Rhodes, 76, lived at 939 Western Avenue with two of her children, a niece, and five servants. Eliza Rhodes’ occupation and that of her daughter Mary was given as “own income.” William B. Rhodes, 46, worked as manager of a pressed steel plant. Eliza Rhodes’ niece Lucy Rhodes (sic), 61, was single and had been born in Pennsylvania to parents born in England. Her occupation was also given as “own income.”

In 1910, the Rhodes’ servants were Katy Rogers, 30, Kate King, 37, Elizabeth Krepler, 26, Sophia Lowrie, 30, and Thomas Northcutt, 43. Katy Rogers, a chambermaid, had been born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1898. Kate King, a cook, had been born in Virginia to parents born in Ireland and Virginia. Elizabeth Krepler, a parlor maid, had been born in Pennsylvania to parents also born in Pennsylvania. Sophia Lowrie, a waitress, had been born in Scotland and immigrated in 1908.

All residents of 939 Western Avenue in 1910 were able to read, write and speak English.

City directories indicate that Eliza Rhodes lived at 939 Western Avenue until her death on September 6, 1912. Her son William B. Rhodes lived at 939 Western Avenue until his death in the 1920’s. Mary Rhodes Van Voorhis lived at 939 Western Avenue until 1933, when the house was sold to the Allegheny Colombian Association.

The 1920 manuscript census will be available for public review in 1992 and should provide information on residents of 939 Western Avenue in that year. Census records are sealed for 72 years to preserve confidentiality.

The Trauermans

Isaac Trauerman was married to Amanda Klee, a daughter of Joseph and Rosa Klee, in 1889-1890. The young couple lived with the Klee family at 927 Beech Avenue before they moved to 935 Beech Avenue.

Isaac G. Trauerman was a son of Samuel Trauerman, a livestock dealer who resided at 930 Beech Avenue, and lived with his family at that address before he was married. In 1889-1890 Isaac G. Trauerman became a partner in the family business, B.S. Trauerman & Company, located in Pittsburgh’s Central Stock Yards in East Liberty. He remained a partner in B.S. Trauerman & Company throughout the time that he lived at 935 Beech Avenue.

The 1898 Pittsburgh directory listed Isaac G. Trauerman as a partner in the Home Dressed Meat Company at 200 South 21st Street on the South Side. Trauerman’s home address was not listed. In 1899, Trauerman was again associated with B.S. Trauerman & Company, but had moved to Sioux City, Iowa.

Max Klein

Max Klein was a wholesale liquor dealer in Pittsburgh between the 1870s and 1890s, operating stores on lower Federal Street in Allegheny City and at 410 Market Street, Downtown. Klein was a Bavarian immigrant and a Civil War veteran.

Records of the 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on the Klein family and any other residents of 935 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire following the completion of the census. Records of the 1880 census, taken four to five years before the Klein family moved to 935 Beech Avenue, provide some information on the family. In 1880, Max Klein was 37 years old and his wife, Henrietta, was 28. The couple then had three children: Leah, seven, Arthur H., five and Milton, born in September 1879. The Kleins employed two servants, Rosina Rogers and Gertrude Smith, who lived in their home. The size of the house at 935 Beech Avenue, together with Max Klein’s continuing success in business, strongly suggests that the family also had live-in help at that address.

After moving from 935 Beech Avenue in 1891-1892, the Klein family lived at 911 Beech Avenue. The family remained at that address into the early 20th century.

The Klein family does not appear to have been related to the Klee family.

The Klees

Joseph and Rosa Klee were both born in Prussia, Joseph in 1824-1825 and Rosa in 1834-1835. Known records do not indicate whether the couple were married before or after they came to the United States. Joseph Klee may have immigrated with a brother, Jacob, who was his business partner in Pittsburgh between the late 1850s and the early 1880s. Jacob Klee, according to Jacob Feldman, became an American citizen in 1854 in Philadelphia, and it is possible that Joseph Klee did the same.

Rosa Klee

Rosa Klee in Later Life

Jacob Feldman found that in the 1850s, “Most Jews in Pittsburgh concentrated in four business lines: liquors, livestock, dry goods and men’s clothing.” Joseph Klee was involved in the manufacture and sale of men’s clothing with most of the businesses in which he is known to have been a principal. Klee was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory for the first time in 1857, as a partner in J. Klee & Company, shoe merchants, on Federal Street in the present vicinity of PNC Park. In about 1858 Joseph and Jacob Klee and an in-law, Simon Kaufman, formed Klee, Kaufman & amp; Klee, tailors and wholesale clothiers, on Federal Street in the same area. Both firms operated on Federal Street through the early 1860s.

Joseph and Jacob Klee were partners in their longest-lasting venture, J. Klee & Brother, wholesale clothiers, between approximately 1860 and the early 1880s. The firm was located on Federal Street in Allegheny City in the 1860s, and on Wood Street, Downtown, in the 1870s and 1880s. After Jacob Klee left in about 1882, the firm continued briefly as J. Klee & Son at 805 Liberty Avenue before Joseph Klee became the sole owner. Klee retired in about 1886.

The Klee family lived on or near lower Federal Street in the 1850s and 1860s. The family moved by the mid-1870s to Allegheny West, living in a house then known as 5 Lincoln Avenue, between Allegheny Avenue and the present Rooney house at 940 North Lincoln Avenue. The 1880 census enumerated the family at that address. Joseph Klee, 55, was listed as a merchant tailor, and Rosa Klee, 45, had no occupation. The couple had eight children living at home: Bennie, 18, a salesman, and Laura, 17, Amanda, 15, Simon, 13, Leo, 11, Nettie, nine, Winfield, six and Carrie Oppenheimer, 22, who was married to Sol Oppenheimer, 27, a merchant.

In the early 1880s, the Klee family moved to Western Avenue. The family remained there until 1884-1885, when they moved to 36 (now 927) Beech Avenue, at the eastern end of what became known as Klee Row. By the time that Klee Row was built, the Klees were prominent in Pittsburgh’s social circles. In 1888, The Social Mirror, a book listing well-known Pittsburgh families, reported that:

In one of a pretty new block of houses in Allegheny, which he recently built, Mr. Joseph Klee and his family reside. Mrs. Klee is a pleasant mannered, good-looking woman, and quite a favorite in her social circle.

The Klees were also listed in Pittsburgh Blue Books, or social registers, which began publication in the 1880s.

Joseph Klee lived at 927 Beech Avenue until his death in 1889. Rosa Klee lived in the house until 1907, sharing the house with the family of a daughter and son-in-law, Tillie and Henry Herzog. Rosa Klee sold Klee Row in 1907, at age 72. She appears to have died or left Pittsburgh within a short time after she sold the property.

The Bells

John S. Bell was born in Ireland in about 1838. Eliza Bell was born in Pennsylvania in about 1836.

By the late 1850’s, the future Eliza Bell was the wife of Robert McKee, a salesman. The couple lived in Allegheny (now the Northside), on Federal Street near Jackson (now Jacksonia) Street. John S. Bell began boarding with the McKee family by 1860.

The 1860 manuscript census enumerated a household headed by Robert McKee in Allegheny’s Second Ward. The census reported that Robert McKee, 25, was a native of Ireland who worked as a salesman, and that Eliza McKee, 24, had no occupation. Robert McKee owned no real estate and had no “personal estate,” or cash savings, but Eliza McKee owned real estate worth $1,000 and had a personal estate of $5,000.

In 1860, Robert and Eliza McKee had three children: John B., four, Amelia, two, and Christian, five months. All of the McKee children had been born in Pennsylvania.

The 1860 census reported that John S. Bell, 22, was a clerk who boarded with the McKee family. Bell was reported to own no real estate and have no personal estate.

A servant, Mary Kress, also lived with the McKee family in 1860. Mary Kress was 18 years old and had been born in Ireland.

City directories show that the McKee family and John S. Bell moved from Federal Street to 67 Logan Street in the Hill District (on or near the site of the Civic Arena) in 1861 or 1862. By 1863, Robert McKee died, and Eliza McKee and John S. Bell moved to 71 Logan Street. John S. Bell and Eliza McKee were married in 1863 or 1864. Shortly after their marriage, the Bells moved to 294 Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.

In 1865, John S. Bell became a partner in Bates & Bell, dry goods merchants, located at 21 Fifth Avenue. Bell’s
partner was Alexander Bates of Highland Avenue in East Liberty. The Bates & Bell partnership lasted until 1869.
The Bell family moved to 52 Ferry Street in Pittsburgh in 1865 and lived at that address through 1867. In 1867, the Bells’ neighbors included Harry Darlington, who built a four-story mansion at 721 Brighton Road about 24 years later. In 1867, Harry Darlington was the owner of a brewery and lived at 35 Ferry Street.

The 1868 city directory listed John S. Bell as living on Beech Street near Grant Street (now Galveston Street).

The 1870 directory listed John S. Bell as a partner in Bell & Moorhouse, dry goods merchants. Bell’s partner was John L. Moorhouse of 118 Centre Avenue in the Hill District. Bell & Moorhouse was located at 21 Fifth Avenue, the former location of Bates & Bell. This partnership lasted only one year.

The 1870 manuscript census enumerated John S. and Eliza Bell at 47 Beech Street with their six children and a servant. In 1870, the Bells’ children were Amelia, 11, Charles, seven and William, five, all attending school, and Bessie, three, John B., two and James, five months, at home. All of the Bells’ children had been born in Pennsylvania.

The Bell family’s servant was Frances Pleasant, 27, who had been born in Ohio.

The 1870 manuscript census, which was the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that John S. Bell owned real estate valued at $141,500 and had a personal estate of $1,000.

City directories indicate that after selling 47 Beech Avenue in 1870, John S. and Eliza Bell moved their family to Jacks Run Road in Bellevue. During the 1870’s John S. Bell was listed in city directories as an agent.

The 1880 manuscript census enumerated the Bell family living in an unnumbered house on Jacks Run Road. John S. Bell was employed as a millinery agent, and Eliza Bell did not work.

In 1880, the census reported that the Bells’ children were Charles, 16, William, 14, Bessie, 11, Bates, nine, Nellie, six, James, five and Frederick, four. According to census records, only William Bell attended school.

During the 1880’s, John S. and Eliza Bell experienced financial difficulties, losing some of their property in Bellevue at sheriff’s sale and selling other property to the person who had foreclosed on them. John S. Bell last appeared in the Pittsburgh city directory in 1884.

The Gerlachs

The 1920 and 1930 censuses enumerated Ann Gerlach’s husband, John Gerlach Jr., as the head of the household at 851 Beech Avenue. He had been born in Pennsylvania and was a son of German immigrants. In 1920, he was 38 years old and his occupation was listed as auto transportation. Records of the 1930 census list him as a broker in stocks and bonds.
Anna Gerlach, 39 in 1920, had been born in Pennsylvania like her parents. The Gerlach children were then Lawrence, 14, John E., 12, Crescentia, 11, Maria, nine, Anna, seven and Claude, four. The 1930 census, taken three and a half years after Ann Gerlach’s death, recorded four of the children still living at home: John E., 22, a laborer doing odd jobs, Marie, 20, with no occupation, Anna, 16, a department store saleswoman and Claude, 15.

The 1930 census indicates that the Gerlach family owned a “radio set,” like many middle class families, and that 851 Beech Avenue had an estimated value of $12,000. In 1940, as a result of the Great Depression’s effect on property values, the house’s estimated value was $8,000.

John Gerlach Jr. no longer lived at 851 Beech Avenue in 1940, having conveyed his interest in the house to his children in 1931. Records of the 1940 census list John E. Gerlach, 31, as the head of the household. He was employed as a Pittsburgh firefighter, and had worked 40 hours in the week before the census. In 1939 he had worked all 52 weeks, and earned $1,000. His wife Loretta, 29, and a Pennsylvania native, had no occupation. The couple had a son, Bernard, who was two years old. Claude Gerlach, 23, also still lived in the house. He was a college senior who was not working or seeking work at the time of the census, and had not worked in 1939.

The 1940 census was the first to collect information on educational levels. Census records show that John E. Gerlach had completed two years of college and Loretta Gerlach was a high school graduate.

The 1940 census is the last census that provides information on occupants of 851 Beech Avenue. Manuscript census records are withheld from public view for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons who were enumerated.

The Holmeses (Charles)

Charles Holmes was born in or near Pittsburgh in September 1835. His father, Thomas Holmes, was a bricklayer who had been born in England. His mother, Jane, was from Ireland. Records of the 1850 census show that Thomas Holmes owned real estate valued at $3,700, roughly comparably to $300,000 today, indicating that the family lived comfortably. Thomas Holmes may have been a bricklaying contractor rather than an employee, a distinction that was sometimes not made in city directories and census records. In 1850, the Holmes family lived on Decatur Street in the lower Hill District.

The Holmes family left Pittsburgh during the first half of the 1850s, and Charles Holmes’ residence and activities during young adulthood are not known. Holmes returned to the city in or shortly before 1862, when he was listed in the city directory for the first time. He worked as a clerk, and boarded on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.

In about 1863, Holmes established C. Holmes & Company, a grocery store at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Smithfield Street. He owned the store, later at the southeast corner of Second and Smithfield, until the late 1870s. He was still single, and boarded at various addresses around Downtown.

Holmes married Sarah “Sallie” A. Gilfillan Mastisson, about 36, a native of West Alexander, Washington County, on July 3,1879. Her parents were Silver Gilfillan, a carpenter and cabinet maker, and Marie Gilfillan, both born in Pennsylvania in the late 1790s. She had previously been married, but was a widow when she married Charles Holmes. She had no children during either of her marriages.

At around the time that he married, Charles Holmes left the grocery business and became a partner in the firm of Keller Morris & Holmes, sand and gravel dealers, on Water Street (now Fort Pitt Boulevard), Downtown. Holmes became a partner in the Keystone Sand Company in about 1881, and in the Monongahela Sand Company, possibly a successor firm, about 1884. The Monongahela Sand Company was located at 1825 Wharton Street on the South Side. Holmes remained with the latter business until about 1892, serving as its secretary and treasurer in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

In 1890, Holmes parlayed his gains from the sand and gravel business as a founder of the Mercantile Trust Company of Pittsburgh, at 413 Wood Street, Downtown. He left the Monongahela Sand Company in 1892 or 1893, when he became the Mercantile Trust Company’s bookkeeper. He was vice-president of the trust company by 1896. He also helped found the First National Bank of McKees Rocks in 1898, and was that institution’s first president. He served as vice-president of the Mortgage Banking Company after that firm was established in 1902.

Charles and Sallie Holmes lived at 425 and 435 Liberty Avenue, in the present Gateway Center area, between the early 1880s and early 1890s. In about 1891 they moved to 1617 Locust Street, in the present UPMC Mercy Hospital area. They remained at that address until they moved to 851 Beech Avenue in 1899.

Records of the 1900 census list Charles Holmes, 64, and Sallie Holmes, 56, as the only residents of 851 Beech Avenue. Census records also show that 851 Beech Avenue was not mortgaged.

While living on Beech Avenue, Charles and Sallie Holmes belonged to the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh on Sixth Avenue, Downtown. Charles Holmes had been a church deacon since 1874, was a member of the finance committee, and served as the congregation’s treasurer.

Pittsburgh directories published during the first several years after Charles and Sallie Holmes moved to Beech Avenue listed Holmes simply as a banker, possibly because of his association with more than one financial institution. Holmes retired in 1905. Census records from 1910 gave his occupation as “own income”, meaning that he was able to support himself without working.

In 1910, Charles and Sallie Holmes employed a private nurse, Sadie Taylor, who lived at 851 Beech Avenue. Taylor was a 33-year-old divorcee who was at least a second-generation Pennsylvania native. She probably cared for Sallie Holmes, who died in 1911,

Charles Holmes sold 851 Beech Avenue in 1913, and was not listed in subsequent Pittsburgh directories. When he died at Columbia Hospital in Wilkinsburg in 1916, his obituary reported that he had been living with a nephew in Ohio.

The Siebenecks

James J. Siebeneck was born in Mainz (or Mayence), Germany, on April 11, 1827. His parents were Franz and Clara Siebeneck. He arrived in the United States in 1848 or 1849, at age 21. He initially worked as a civil engineer and surveyor on canal and railroad projects. Siebeneck received his legal education in Towanda, Pennsylvania, where he served an apprenticeship known as reading law in the office of an established attorney between 1855 and 1857. He passed the bar in Towanda in 1857, and came to Pittsburgh in 1857 or 1858. He was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory for the first time in 1858, as an attorney at law whose office was on Grant Street, Downtown. He boarded at a different address on Grant Street.

On October 20, 1859, Siebeneck married Margaret E. Thomson McKinney, who had been born in Tennessee on April 11, 1825. Her parents were Archibald McKinney, born outside the United States and later a Pittsburgh resident, and Ann Watson McKinney, born in Pittsburgh. Ann Watson McKinney, according to information compiled by Allegheny West historian John Canning, was a daughter of Andrew Watson, an early Pittsburgh tavern keeper. James J. and Margaret Siebeneck had two children: James J. Jr., who was born in 1860 and died in infancy, and Clara H., who was born about 1862 and died in 1865.

After marrying, the Siebenecks lived in a boarding house in Wylie Avenue in the lower Hill District, then lived in what was probably their own home on the same street until 1869. During the Civil War James Siebeneck, a Republican like President Lincoln, was a strong Union supporter. He participated in a recruitment rally held on the West Common in Allegheny City on July 24, 1862, and contributed $50 to a bounty fund that rewarded volunteers for enlisting. He was among the speakers on the steps of the Pittsburgh main post office when the war ended three years later. His later participation in public life included serving on the Allegheny County Centennial [of the United States] Committee in 1876 and participating in dedication ceremonies for the new Allegheny County Courthouse in 1888.

The 1870 population census was the first census taken following the construction of 851 Beech Avenue. The census recorded James Siebeneck as an attorney who owned real estate worth $87,000, several times the value of his home, and had a personal estate of $6,500. Margaret, 44, kept house. The couple employed a servant who lived in their home: Mary Chambers, 22, who had been born in Ireland.

Margaret Siebeneck died on September 28, 1877, at age 51. Her death left James Siebeneck living alone at 851 Beech Avenue, except for household staff. The 1880 census enumerated two such residents of the house: Nancy Mcllevein, 66, a housekeeper born in Ireland, and Fanny Davis, 21, a servant who had immigrated from Wales. Records of the 1890 census, which would provide information on all occupants of 851 Beech Avenue in that year, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in Washington D.C. in the 1920s. By that time, Siebeneck had family members at close proximity, as a brother, Pittsburgh newspaper publisher Joseph G. Siebeneck, also a widower, and his family moved to 855 Beech Avenue in about 1887. Both Siebeneck brothers and Joseph’s family were listed in Pittsburgh and Allegheny Blue Books, or social directories, after publication began in the 1880s.

James Siebeneck practiced law on Grant Street and on Wylie Avenue at Fifth Avenue and Grant Street for the rest of his life. He may also have taken some cases in Beaver County, where he became licensed to practice in 1868. He died at home at 851 Beech Avenue on March 20,1896. His heirs sold his house in 1899.

The Childlses

James H. Childs was born in the Shadyside section of Pittsburgh in 1878. His parents were Harvey Childs Jr., a wholesale shoe merchant on Wood Street, Downtown, and Jeannette Childs. As a young man at the beginning of the 20th century, he and Clinton L. Childs became partners in Childs & Childs, bankers and brokers, with offices in the Arrott Building at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street. He remained with Childs & Childs until about 1912. He then became president of H. Childs & Company at 813 Penn Avenue, a wholesale shoe, leather and rubber business that was a successor to his father’s firm.

James H. Childs married Alice Walton in 1902. The couple lived at 609 Allegheny Avenue and had a summer home in Sewickley Heights soon after they were married. By 1912, the Childs family had a summer home at Dark Harbor, Maine. The family lived at 943 North Lincoln Avenue in the 1910s, until James H. Childs purchased 845 North Lincoln Avenue from James and Ida Scully in 1917. When they moved to 845 North Lincoln Avenue, James H. and Alice Childs had three children.

Records of the 1920 census list the five members of the Childs family at 845 North Lincoln Avenue: James H. Childs, 41, a wholesale leather and rubber merchant; Alice Walton Childs, 40; and Alice Walton Childs, 14, Mary, ten and James H. Jr., six. Household staff living in the house were:

  • Margaret Brown, 41, a widowed nurse who had immigrated from England in 1893
  • Delia Osher, 28, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1910
  • Ellen Deasy, 30, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1908
  • Mary Lyon, 32, a servant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1900
  • Julia Grotschal, 32, a Hungarian immigrant

Records of the 1920 census also show that 845 North Lincoln Avenue was mortgaged.

The Childs family lived at 845 North Lincoln Avenue until 1923, when James and Alice Childs sold the house. The family then moved to 5453 Albemarle Avenue in Squirrel Hill, and lived there until the 1930s, when they moved to 608 Academy Avenue in Sewickley. James H. Childs continued as president of H. Childs & Company for many years, and later served as chairman.

James H. and Alice Walton Childs lived at 608 Academy Avenue until they died in 1963.