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James' Property

One of the reasons that I enjoy researching Tom's family is that they were in the City of Pittsburgh in the 1830's and have lived here ever since. I thank my husband for patiently driving me around the town to places of significance in the family's history. It fascinates me to think about the way life might have been lived long ago.

This map from the 1850 City Directory shows the City of Pittsburgh as James McAdams would have known it. At that time the North Side of Pittsburgh was a separate city called Allegheny.

Pittsburgh Map

The blue line at the top of the page highlights the Pennsylvania Canal, at the location of modern 11th Street. By way of reference, David L. Lawrence Convention Center now occupies the block between 10th Street and 11th Street. The Pennsylvania Canal is pictured on the McAdams in Pennsylvania page, and would have been a familiar site to James McAdams. The dark green line highlights a street known to James as Penn Street, now called Penn Avenue. Penn runs across the map down to the Point where the rivers meet and the Pennsylvania Rail Road Depot once stood.

The red line indicates the section of Quarry Street where James bought property in 1837 for $310. I like to try to imagine the house on Quarry Street. In my mind's eye, the house is made of brick, as were so many houses in Pittsburgh. I picture the furnishings as being very simple, for a simpler time and a simpler way of life. I like to think that the house on Quarry Street was a happy home for James and Sarah and their nine children, and later for James' second wife, Elizabeth.

In the 1839 City Directory, the house on Quarry Street was described as "b O'Hara and Walnut." By 1850, the property was issued a house number and was listed as "54 Quarry." James continued to occupy the Quarry Street property which he called "my residence" when he left the property to his son, James Emmett in the 10th item of his 1862 will. In the Codicil to his will, James states that there "is a strong probability of the Pennsylvania Rail Road Company purchasing my property in Quarry Street," and directs the way that the proceeds of that sale should be distributed. The Pennsylvania Rail Road did buy the property. Quarry Street no longer exists. In its place stands the Pennsylvania Rail Road Station at the intersection of 11th St., Grant St., and Liberty Ave.

The brown line indicates Smallman Street, a street that exists today. In item # 3 of his will, James bequeathed property near Smallman street to his son William.

The yellow line indicates Pasture Alley. In items #4 and 5 of his will, James bequeathed adjacent property on Pasture Alley to daughters Susan Murphy and Isabella McAdams.

The light blue line highlights Franklin Street, a block south of Pasture Alley. In item # 6 of his will, James bequeathed property on Franklin Street to his youngest daughter, Agnes. The 1866-67 City Directory includes a listing for "McAdams, Eliz, Widow James 69 Franklin," which may be the same property described in the will. I like to think of Franklin Street as a fashionable area in the 1860's. As Pittsburgh's industries developed along the rivers, those who could afford to do so moved to the area that we now call The Hill District.

The orange line highlights Pine Street. The City Directory described the location of Pine as from Pike to Butler between Columbia & Locust." In item # 7 of his will, James bequeathed his "frame house on Pine Street" to his daughter Sarah Ellen.

The light green line highlights Bedford Street. In item # 8 of his will, James bequeathed property on Bedford Street to his daughter Rosanna Murphy.

I was impressed with the size of the estate that James was able to accumulate since the time he stepped off the ship Cerces into Philadelphia in 1828. I have wondered to myself, "if James had all of that property, why aren't we rich?" A review of James Emmett's will a generation later takes only a moment. The younger James, father of five, simply leaves his property to his wife Catherine. It would seem that fortunes were made and dissipated quickly in the 1800's. Perhaps America truly was the "Land of Opportunity" in those days. Perhaps future generations will look back on us with envy for our economic advantages.


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-- Nancy McAdams
April 11, 2000


Copyright 2000 Nancy McAdams