Penhey Commentary on the OFN: Part III

By
Robert J. Penhey, British Historian
6/24/96
[With edits & annotations by Larry Pearce]
(Available also in “abbreviated” edition)

[Re: The wedding] Marybone Church, or the Queen’s Church, seems fairly straightforward [Pictures and information are available on the still thriving St. Mary the Virgin parish in the Edmonton Area of London referred to by poet William Blake near Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park. It is famous as the birthplace of the English Hymnal credited to composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. However, we know now that the site of the Pearce-Austen weddings was theMarylebone Chapel across from London’s famous wax museum. Charles Wesley, composer of thousands of hymns and brother to Methodism founder John, is buried there and many other famous men have associations with the church.] While Marlebone is a district of Wigan, Lancashire, now part of Great Manchester which is little-known outside that area, the well-known one is in an area of London which was a fashionable new quarter in 1813. The Marylebone Estate had been a Royal hunting ground. In the eighteenth century it was leased to the Duke of Portland and the lease expired in about 1800 by which time London was spreading in the neighborhood and the Government saw fit to develop it in order to make more money out of it. To this end an area of about 550 acres was laid out in a range of building quality. Around a park which had facilities for riding and generally showing oneself off, there were grand houses, and the area between the park (Regent’s Park) and St. James’s and Buckingham Palaces were occupied by residential streets, some around smart squares such as Grosvenor Square where the US Embassy now is. Some parts of the development were more modest and, taken as a whole, it was a quite advanced piece of social planning. The name Marylebone, in London at least, was until about forty years ago, pronounced “marrabun,” but is now generally called “maral’b’n.” It is an odd example of the introduction of an “L” to a pronunciation over a period when most L’s, not at the beginning of a word, have been dropped. The point of this diversion is that Marylebone might well be the way in which St. Marylebone was remembered and transmitted to late nineteenth century Pine Creek. [The writer of our narrative calls it Marybone, but the French translation of “Marylebone” is “Mary the good.” Another meaning might be after “marl,” or rich, sandy soil, literally “the good earth.” Some in our family even confuse it with the quaint little church in Bourne, about which we will write another article, thinking it might be Marybourne Church, but town historians assure us that it was never called “The Queen’s Church.”] It is a name that has more than one pronunciation. I do not know the names of most of the churches in the area, but one in the angle between Marylebone Road and Marylebone High Street looks a likely candidate. [The next installment should answer the church question once and for all.]

[Re: After the wedding] Why should [Charles and Sarah] have gone to Castle Gate when he had sold the place about six years before? [Could the answer be that with all of Sarah’s belongings – two eight-horse wagon loads – they needed lots of storage space until they could get “settled,” probably never imagining that in seven or eight years they would be selling it all to come to America. Besides, Charles had, no doubt, made friends in the area who would accommodate them. Could Charles and Susan’s parents, Ambrose and Susannah, have also have lived at Castle Gate and remained there or nearby after Charles sold out and moved away? The narrative does say that the wedding night was spent at “his father’s house.”] There is no obvious candidate for the long bridge near Bourne, Lincolnshire. The nearest thing would be a Lolham bridges, which in total are long, but they are a series of very small bridges over a part of the Welland [or wetland?] which is separated into many streams, and one wagon stopped on one of them would block the whole road [The story says that “when they met to pass all the teams were stopped.” This implies that, indeed, they could not get past each other. They probably backed up and pulled into a field on the riverbank for their celebration.]. There are such bridges on the Bedfordshire Ouse [River] nearer to Bourn, Cambridgeshire, but they do not lie between there [Bourn] and London. [Some sources, including the 1911 Austen-Pearce published genealogy, suggest that Richard and Susan were married in 1822. One on the Internet also has 1822 and has the site as Eastern Pennsylvania. This would completely discount the double wedding in the narrative and would certainly be out of character for both the Pearces and the Austens. A careful look at any early 19th century genealogies will reveal others with the same name, or the 1822 date could simply be a misprint or typo.]

[This is the end of Mr. Penhey’s commentary, but I would like to continue with thoughts and research on the remainder of the narrative. I am still looking for any of the family names on a ship’s passenger or baggage list for either Richard Pearce or Charles Austen’s trip to America in 1820 or the March 10 through April, 1821 voyage with Susan Austen Pearce and Sarah Pearce Austen with her children, Susan (7 years old, they set sail on her birthday), Thomas P. (the author’s father, 5 years old), and Charles, Jr. (3 years old). The original narrative says nothing of Richard and Susan’s children born in England and probably brought to America: Ambrose (age 6), Alfred (age 4, the patriarch of the famous Pearce Blanket line whom we will feature in a future article), and Maria (age 1), but all are recorded, along with their birthplace, in the 1850 national census. Can you imagine two young women, Susan (age 29) and Sarah (age 33), with six children ages seven and younger, in a primitive sailing ship, nine weeks on the high sea, running out of provisions. The author, in a grand understatement, called the experience “tempestuous.” The Bay of Biscay the author is referring to is probably the dangerous triangle of water north of Spain and west of France. One Internet source says that it’s “known for sudden and severe storms and strong currents” (WWW.FACTMONSTER.COM). We don’t know where the ship got to in nine weeks, more than twice the time it took Richard and Charles on the same voyage a year earlier, but we assume it wasn’t Biscayne Bay near Miami, Florida.]

[Did Charles and Richard meet the women and children in New York, at the stage coach stop in Philadelphia, or did the men sail back to England to get them? The next article may answer some of those questions. The narrator simply says that after landing in New York, “they …took stage for Philadelphia.” Richard bought a team of horses and a “light” wagon, and with wife Susan and the three children “set on ahead” for Pittsburgh. The main road still exists as US Route 30 West, also called Forbes Road and the Lincoln Highway. Alternatives could have been taken such as The National Highway, now known as US Route 40 and Interstate 68, or the “northern route,” US 322 and US 22. All were well-traveled and led to Pittsburgh, the “Gateway to the West.” The British had built forts during the French and Indian War, a day’s ride apart along what is now Route 30. A few still exist, such as Bedford and Ligonier, and offer a unique perspective on the hardships the young Pearce and Austen families must have experienced. While the 300 mile trek could be accomplished on foot in two weeks today, the wagons loaded with people, Pearces with five and Austens with nine including the Toogoods, took at least a month. One little pioneer village near our home, Laughlintown at the foot of Ligonier Mountain (officially the 3,000 foot Laurel Hill Mountain), boasted 13 inns in the 1820’s. Several still operate today, one as a museum and one as a restaurant and bed and breakfast. One source describes early 19th century conditions in these overnight accommodations as far different than today. The food was whatever might have been killed recently or available from traders to and from the Ohio frontier. One might find himself in a bed with one or two strangers, all desperately in need of a bath. Horses and wagons stayed on the muddy road/path, because to stray meant encounters with wild animals, robbers, and according to an early newspaper account, a leftover Indian or two.]

[The weary travelers would have arrived at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers near the sight of the original French Fort Duquesne and the remains of the British Fort Pitt. After a good night’s sleep, they would put the team of horses, wagon, and family on a ferry and cross the Allegheny to what the narrator calls “The Butler Turnpike Road.” This was the present day Routes 8. The Pine Creek homestead lay just 12 miles north and a few miles west. I was born in Butler and lived the first 12 years of my life just north of Pearce Mill along Route 8, once a two-lane “plank” road, and now a modern four and five-lane stretch.]

[While Charles and Sarah Austen apparently had no more children after coming to America, Richard and Susan had six more, at two and three year intervals for the next 13 years. The youngest, Charles (1834-1914), was my great-grandfather. It’s interesting that Richard was in his 50’s when Charles was born. Charles was in his 40’s when my Grandfather Wesley was born, and Wesley was in his 40’s when my father Ralph was born. Virility must run in the family. Anyway, returning to the commentary, Charles ran the mill and farmed with his father and brothers. He was active in his church and community, and even served as a school director. You’ll find pictures of him and wife Permelia Nelson Pearce under “Photo Album: Pearce.”]

[Future articles will discuss in detail the Pine Creek settlement, which was taken by Allegheny County through the right of eminent domain in 1927 for the creation of North Park. But, for over a century before that, the Pearces worked the mill side, and probably had better terrain for planting crops. The narrator says that the Austen side was “fine pasture land for cattle and sheep.” But, one look at either side of the creek today and we wonder how either family could have survived through farming. My late father Ralph and his brother, Walter Pearce, have recorded some amazing tales of their early lives at Pearce Mill. For example, horses were used to bring in the hay from the steep hillside. The young boys would climb out and hang on to poles sticking out of the wagon to keep it from tipping over. Walter joked that the best way to plant corn on the Austen side was to fire it from a gun into the hillside from the Pearce side. Both families apparently got along well, and as each expanded, the off-spring populated Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and westward. We have much more to share, including information on some rather famous Pearces and Austens.]

Earlier Penhey Commentaries on Pearce-Austen OFN:
Part I
Part II
“Abbreviated Edition”

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