Author: Adrienne Kernaghan
Following is a brief summary of the Dewsnap family who arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania circa 1818‐1823. Many of these individuals moved on to St. Louis, Missouri between 1840‐1860. The exact relationships between these individuals is still undefined but the fact that they all tended to congregate in the same urban areas and have a fairly unusual surname leads me to assume that they are all part of family group. Many of these individuals are buried in Catholic cemeteries. Possibly Roman Catholic Church records in Pittsburgh & St. Louis might shed some light on this family. My goal is to determine the parentage of my g‐g‐g grandmother Mary Ellen Dewsnap. Since I’m not sure of family structure, I’ll discuss each early Dewsnap immigrant individually.
Luke Dewsnap – probably emigrated to the U.S. through the port of Philadelphia from Liverpool, England on the ship Dido September 17, 1817.1 In June 1818 Luke married Elizabeth, the widow of Henry Williams.2 Henry & Elizabeth had 4 children: Mary Ann who married George R. Riddle, Louisa married George C. Hite, Ebenzer and Washington.3 A family tree found on Ancestry.com lists Elizabeth’s maiden name as Jones and says she was born May 20, 1788 in Carnavon Wales and died December 19, 1868 in Allegheny, Allegheny County, PA. It doesn’t appear that Elizabeth and Luke had children of their own. Luke lived in Allegheny (town) City from the time of his marriage and ran a tavern on the lot owned by his wife at the corner of Ohio and Beaver (Arch) streets.4 Samuel Kerr established a school in Mrs. Dewsnap’s red frame house in 1825.5 After both a browse and search I couldn’t seem to find Luke or Elizabeth in Allegheny County Pennsylvania in the 1820 Census. There is referenced a Luke Dusenkopp in Ross Twp but the ages listed in the household don’t seem to match up with the Elizabeth’s family information. In February 1829 George C. Hite and Louisa Hite petition the court to divide the property left by Henry Williams and specifically state that Luke Dewsnap, the current spouse of the widow of Henry Williams has no rights to the property in question (Lot 53 in Allegheny, Allegheny County, Pa).6 In December 1828 Hugh Davis, guardian for Mary Ann
Williams also legally records her interest in lot 53 as an heir of Henry Williams.7 In the 1830 Federal Census, the domicile of Luke Dewsnap in Alleghey, Allegheny City, Pennsylvania lists three occupants, Luke (age 40‐50), Elizabeth (age 50‐60) and probably Mary Ann, Elizabeth’s youngest daughter (age 15‐20).8 I can’t seem to find a household in Allegheny, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the 1840 Census for Luke. There is an Elizabeth Williams and Elizabeth Riddle but again there are unidentified people living in those households. However in the 1839 Pittsburgh City Directory Luke “Dawsnip” is listed as a butcher with a business on Ohio between Beaver and Diamond.9 In 1840 Luke sponsored George Keltz and in 1938 Robert Calhoon for citizenship.10 So Luke must have become a naturalized citizen although I haven’t found those records yet. Luke Dewsnap is recorded in the 1844 City Directory as a butcher “Ohio near Beaver.”11 L “Dusnap” ownes a store S s Ohio in the 1847 Pittsburgh City Directory.12 In the 1850 Federal Census Luke Dewsnap (age 67), occupation innkeeper, born in England is found living with his wife Elizabeth who is listed a “head‐of‐household.”13 What’s interesting is that in Elizabeth Dewsnap’s will dated May 5, 1849 she doesn’t reference her husband Luke in any way, although she bequeaths money and property to her children and grandchildren.14 In the 1860 Census Elizabeth Dewsnap, age 83, born in Wales, is living with her daughter’s family in Allegheny, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One would assume that Luke had passed away around this time period until we review the Pittsburgh City Directory for the year 1876‐1877 where a Luke Dewsnap “gent” is living at the corner of Ohio and Beaver in Allegheny City.15 If this is the same “Luke Dewsnap” he would be over to 90. Elizabeth Dewsnap died December 15, 1863.16
George Dewsnap – came to the U.S. with his family a few years after Luke Dewsnap. He left Liverpool, England and arrived in Baltimore, Maryland August 29, 1820 on the Liverpool Packet. The ship manifest shows that George came with his family and three boxes.17 No age, occupation or other information is available from this source. Another Dewsnap family follows on the next voyage of the Liverpool Packet, E. (age 33) and J. (age 34) Dewsnop.18 He filed a declaration of intention for citizenship a year later in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1821. “I George Dewsnap a native of England …” No census records can be found to estimate his age or occupation. George may have died shortly thereafter because November 18, 1824 Joseph Oliver is appointed guardian of Thomas Dewsnap “a minor under the age of fourteen years.”19 The identity of his father isn’t clarified. At this point I am assuming that George Dewsnap was Thomas’s father. Ellen Dewsnap, laundress living S s of Strawberry alley b Liberty and Smith is listed in the Pittsburgh Directory.20 Perhaps Ellen was George’s widow. I believe this address is on the Pittsburgh side of the river but I can’t find any further mention of her in the records I’ve been able to check.
On November 9, 1829 William Dewsnap “(b. abt. 1815) son of George Dewsnap late of the City of Pittsburgh deceased” and over the age of fourteen requested court permission to be bound as an apprentice tanner. Samuel Leonard was the tanner assigned to him.21 The 1847 Pittsburgh City Directory documents his address as Franklin St. in Birmingham (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania. Like Thomas “Dusnap” his occupation is furnanceman.22 In 1850 William’s occupation has changed to “roll turner” but he is still living at the same address on Franklin St. in Birmingham (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania.23 In the 1857‐1858 City Directory William Dewsnap is a “roller h Edwards ay n Washington, B.”24 The 1850 finds William “Dusnap,”age 29, born in England, occupation “Roll Turner,” living in Birmingham Borough Allegheny County, Pennsylvania with his wife Elizabeth age 23, also born in England and daughter Mary, age 4.25 In the 1860 Federal Census William “Duesnap” age 45, born in England, occupation roll turner, is living in the Borough of Birmingham in Allegheny County Pennsylvania. His wife Elizabeth, age 44, also born in England, daughter Mary, age 14, and son George, age 4 are also listed in this household.26 A William H. Dewsnap served in the 5th Pennsylvania Artillery Regiment (204th Volunteers) during the Civil War.27 In subsequent Pittsburgh City directories probably George, William’s son is listed. An obituary in the Post Gazette notes the death of Henry William Dewsnap November 14, 1908. This is probably the son of George William Dewsnap.
Thomas H. Dewsnap is the name mentioned by my grandmother Bischoff as either the father or brother of Mary Ellen Dewsnap, born May 2, 1823 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.28 As I recall Grandmother wasn’t certain what the relationship is however it is through Mary Ellen’s troubles and travels that I found him living in St. Louis, 5th Ward, Missouri in the 1850 Census with his wife Ann, age 20, also born in England.29 His occupation is listed as “boatman,” not an unusual category for people living along the Midwestern river valleys. His age is 37 in this census which make his birth year approximately 1813. Given this birthdate Thomas wouldn’t be a good candidate as Mary Ellen’s father, however the death certificate for Thomas H.
Dewsnap specifies that he died September 1, 1876 at the age of 73. That would place his birth year in 1803.30 A few years earlier, in 1847, Thomas “Dusnap” furnaceman, is living in Birmingham (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania on Virgin St. but is not found in the 1850 Pittsburgh City Directory.31 In the 1870 Census he says that he is 63 which would place his birth year about 1807.32 Given this conflicting information, it’s difficult to positively say whether he is the father of Mary Ellen. One scenario is that there are two Thomas Dewsnaps one was the son of George Dewsnap who died in Pittsburg and the other Thomas is the brother of George Dewsnap. Perhaps baptismal records could help sort this out. Thomas Dewsnap is found in the St. Louis City directories from 1857 through 1870. He is the owner of the King & Dewsnap saloon on 2nd street.33 The tavern owned by King & Dewsnap in St. Louis pays federal income taxes in 1863‐1866.34 On September 3, 1876 Thomas H. Dewsnap (age 73) was buried in Calvary Cemetery St. Louis Missouri alongside his wife Mary who was buried December 10, 1867 (age 37). Also buried in this plot is Harriet M. Boyle, Julia Dewsnap, Mary Dewsnap and Agnes McGinnis. I believe that Mary & Julia are daughters. I’m not sure about the connection with Agnes McGinnis or Harriet M. Boyle.35 I hypothesize that Thomas’s middle name is Henry as several of the Dewsnap descendents in Pittsburgh also have that name.
Mary Ellen Dewsnap was born May 2, 1823 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania36 however the names of her parents remains a mystery. My grandmother Bischoff was Mary Ellen’s great‐granddaughter. She thought that Mary Ellen’s father’s name was Thomas Dewsnap and that possibly her mother’s maiden name was Plummer.37Grandmother talked about Mary Ellen’s beauty and the fact that she had been married three times. She thought the name of Mary Ellen’s first husband might be Kern but that is definitely a guess on her part. Mary Ellen Dewsnap married Ford Hugh McFee circa 1841‐1843. This guess is based on the fact that the household of Ford McFee in the 1840 census contains no women living in the household in Mary Ellen’s age range and the fact that her first child William was born about 1845.38 Ford & Ellen McFee had four sons: William b. circa 1845, Thomas Plummer McFee (my great‐great grandfather) b. December 18, 1846 in Fayette City, Fayette County, Pennsylvania,39 George D. (Dewsnap?) McFee b. about 1849,40 and Theodore Ford McFee b. about 1851.41 The family
lived in Fayette City, Fayette County, Pennsylvania until 1853 when they moved to Pittsburgh.42 There is a Hugh McFee found in the Pittsburgh City Directory43 during this timeframe. Ford H. McFee died January, 1856.44 On April 17, 1856 in Allegheny County Ellen McFee renounces her right to administer the estate of her husband Ford H. McFee and recommends Ford’s brother, William McFee as administrator.45 In Fayette County the first probate records for Ford McFee begin in September 1859.46 Donning traditional black garb, at the age of thirty‐three, Ellen is once again a widow. With four children to support, no family support and minuscule financial resources, few options are open to her in Pittsburgh. T.P. McFee’s legislative history states that the family moved to St. Louis in 1857.
Why was St. Louis chosen as Ellen McFee’s destination? I believe it was because she had family there. By 1857 both Mariah (Maria) Dewsnap Knight (married to Richard Knight) and Thomas H. Dewsnap reside in St. Louis. Mariah is either Mary Ellen’s sister or cousin. Mariah’s maiden name is identified in the biography of her son‐in‐law Charles Henry Dixon.47 In 1836 Richard Knight of Allegheny purchased the coal rights from Mark Derry of Washington Twp, Fayette County, Pennsylvania (Fayette City is part of this township).48 Richard Knight started the first brick making plant in St. Louis.49 Ellen McFee is living with Richard & Mary Knight in the 1860 Census in Franklin County, Illinois where her occupation is listed as a “seamstress.”50 On September 5, 1860, soon after their move to Franklin County, Richard Knight died and was buried in the cemetery he had established in 1859 after his son, Charles died. Shortly after Richard’s death Richard’s wife Mary sold their farm and left Franklin County.51 According to Grandmother, the two families continued visit, had picnics together and generally maintained a close relationship. Ellen was obviously grateful to Richard Knight because she named one of her sons after him.52 Just a few sad days after Richard Knight’s death, on September 8, 1860.
Ellen McFee married Erasmus Leek Crawford, a neighbor, substantial landowner and widower, in Franklin County.53 Erasmus and Ellen had three children together: The 1st, Mary Ellen, died April 16, 1866, age 2 years, 3 months and 13 days;54 Eddie B. died October 15, 1872, age 5 years, 13 days;55 and Charles Knight born July 2, 1861. Erasmus Leek Crawford died December 17, 1872 in Franklin County, Illinois.56 A widow for the third and last time, Ellen (Dewsnap) McFee/Crawford is appointed guardian for her youngest son Charles Crawford57 and eventually relocates to St. Louis with all her sons. She can be found in the St. Louis City directories in 1877 through 1880.58 In the 1880 Census Ellen Crawford is living in St. Louis with her sons George & Charles. She states that she was born in Pennsylvania, her father was born in England and her mother was born in Ireland.59 In the 1880 Census Ellen Crawford is living in St. Louis with her sons George & Charles. She states that she was born in Pennsylvania, her father was born in England and her mother was born in Ireland.During this same timeframe Thomas P. & Sallie McFee are also living in St. Louis sometimes at the same address as Ellen Crawford. It is during this period that Sallie McFee converts to the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps because of her friendship with the Dewsnap family. After a lifetime of triumph over tragedy, on June 30, 1883 Mary Ellen (Dewsnap) McFee‐Crawford succumbs to ovarian cancer and at the age of 60 is laid to rest in Bethany Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. 59 60 All her sons are buried within footsteps of her unmarked grave.
1 Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, 1800‐1850 Passenger and Immigration Lists, Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2003. Original data: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800‐1882. Washington, D.C.: National Archives & Records Administration Micropublication M425, rolls # 1‐71, film number 25, list number 179.
2 A Digest of the Ordinances of the Corporation of the City of Allegheny and the Acts of the Assembly Relating thereto: with notes and references to judicial decisions thereon, Allegheny (Pittsburgh, PA.) charter., Pennsylvania Laws, etc. Kennedy & Brother, 1846. Found online http://digital.library.pitt.edu.
3 Information contained in the Digest of the Ordinances of the Corporation of the City of Allegheny and the Acts of the Assembly and probate records of Elizabeth Dewsnap, found in the Allegheny Courthouse.
4 Semi‐centennial anniversary of the First United Presbyterian Church, Allegheny City, Pa., Thursday, Nov. 8, 1881. First United Presbyterian Church (Allegheny, Pa.) Myers, Shinkle, 1881?.
5 Story of Old Allegheny City, Allegheny Centennial Committee, 1941, p. 74.
6 Probate records of Elizabeth Dewsnap.
7 Information contained in the Digest of the Ordinances of the Corporation of the City of Allegheny.
8 1830 U.S. Census; Census place: Allegheny, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 144; p. 78.
9 1839 Pittsburgh City Directory.
10 A List of Immigrants Who Applied for Naturalization Papers in the District Courts of Allegheny County, PA. 1798‐1840. Vol.1.
11 Harris Business Directory of the Cities of Pittsburgh & Allegheny, Isaac Harris, 1844, p. 75.
12 Pittsburgh City Directory 1847.
13 1850 U.S. Census; Census place Allegheny Ward 1, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_744; page 51.
14 Will of Elizabeth Dewsnap, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Wills, Vol. 11, p. 37 probated 1864.
15 Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Cities 1876‐1877, George Thurston, p. 183.
16 Pittsburgh Post Gazette, December 16, 1863, p.2.
17 Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore 1820‐1891. National Archives & Records Administration. Film M255, rolls #1‐19.
18 Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Baltimore, Surnames C‐D, p. 132.
19 Allegheny Orphans Court Docket #15 November 1824.
20 Pittsburgh the year 1826, Samuel Jones, printed by Stockton 1826.
21 Allegheny Orphans Court Docket # 15, November 1829.
22 1847 Pittsburgh City Directory, p. 201
23 1850 Pittsburgh City Directory, p. 24.
24 Directory of Pittsburgh and Vicinity 1857‐1858,George Thurston, p. 48.
25 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Roll M4432_748, p. 75.
26 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Roll M653_1065; p. 79.
27 U.S. Civil War Woldiers, 1961‐1865.
28 St. Louis, Missouri Death certificate # 6857 – Vol. 14 p. 458 Ellen Crawford – female – place of death 2510 N. 10th St. – age 60 years 1 month 28 days – date of death June 30, 1883 – cause of death – cancert encephalois of the left Ovary – burial permit filed Jul. 2, 1883 – undertaker A. Kron – Cemetery Bethania. Her birthplace is identified in the death certificate for her son Charles Crawford.
29 1850 U.S. Federal Census, St. Louis Ward 5, St. Louis County, Missouri, Roll: M432_417, p. 228.
30 1876-9-1 St. Louis Registry of Deaths
Sept 1 1876 Thomas H. Dewsnap age 73 widower – born England address 146 North 17th St. – cause of death ? attending physician G. Hount buried Calvary Cemetery.
31 1847 Pittsburgh City Directory, p. 201.
32 U.S. Federal Census, St. Louis, Ward 8, St. Louis, Missouri, Roll M593_818, p. 19.
33 St. Louis City Directories from microfilm found at the St. Louis County library.
34 U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists 1862‐1918, NARA MF M776‐2 & 7.
35 http://www.Stlcathcem.org, lot 0288, section 7.
36 The maiden name for Ellen McFee was provided through oral history. This information is confirmed by death certificate of her son Charles Crawford, City of St. Louis, Mo. Cert. # 4916. City of St. Louis, Missouri, Vol. 14. p. 458, Reg. 4264, Cert. # 6857. Place of birth stated on various census documents. Pittsburgh PA referenced as place of birth on death certificate of her son Theodore F. McFee, City of St. Louis, Mo. Cert. # 6268.
37 Plummer was the middle name of Mary Ellen’s second son, my g‐g‐grandfather Thomas Plummer McFee.
38 William’s age is derived from the 1850 Census which lists the household of Ford McFee.
39 Bio From 1895 – Illinois Legislative History – 39th General Assembly 1894-1896.
40 Approximate birth date derived from death certificate (Aug. 18, 1886) of George McFee St. Louis City, Missouri, City Clerk Office Register of Death. St. Louis, Missouri, Vol. 18, p. 592.
41 Birthdate derived from death certificate # 6268 of Theodore F. McFee age 57 died October 22, 1909 St. Louis City, Missouri, City Clerk Office Register of Death. St. Louis, Missouri.
42 Bio From 1895 – Illinois Legislative History – 39th General Assembly 1894-1896.
43 1856‐57 Pittsburgh City Directory, p. 286 McAfee, Hugh, Plank Road House, between Alexander & Mill; p. 217 McAfee, Hugh, shoemaker, Leacock n Federal.
44 City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety Bureau of Health Death Register Index, 1856 (prb. January). Index only available, LDS MF ?.
45 Allegheny County Orphans Court Records. It could be that the William McFee suggested by Mary Ellen McFee was her oldest son William but it seems likely that an older person would have been chosen for this task. William McFee, son of Ford & Mary McFee, was probably about 11 or 12 years old at this time. Additionally William McFee, son of Ford is not listed in the 1857 tax records for Fayette County.
46 Fayette County Orphans Court Records, September 1859, p. 558
47 Missouri the Center State, 1821‐1915, Walter Barlow Stevens, S.J. Clarke, 1915.
48 Fayette County Pennsylvania, Land Record Book U, Oct. 31, 1836, p. 212.
49 Biography of Daniel Kerwin, married to Mariah Knight.
50 1860 Census, Year: 1860; Census Place: Township 6 S Range 2 E, Franklin, Illinois; Roll: M653_177; Page: 426; Image: 427.
51 Browning Township Cemeteries, Franklin County, Illinois, inventoried by Curtis Mandrell, Paul Rose, Helen Lind, Evan Akin Pickard, p. 147 & 152.
52 Richard & Mary (Ann?) Knight probably had at least two daughters who resided in St. Louis. Maria K. (Biggs?) (Dec. 1, 1859) Knight married William Henry Woodward, a publisher (Woodward & Tiernan) in St. Louis & Mary E. Knight “daughter of Richard Knight…who started in St. Louis the first firebrick manufactory established west of the Allegheny Mountains” she married Daniel Kerwin … one of their sons worked at the Woodward & Tiernan Printing
53 Franklin County Illinois, Volume 3, p. 250, dated September 8, 1860, Mr. Erasmus L. Crawford and Miss Ellen McFee.
54 Browning Township Cemeteries, Franklin County, Illinois, Inventoried by Curtis Mandrell, Paul Rose, Helen Lind, Evan Akin Pickard, published by the Frankfort Area Genealogical Society. p. 152. She’s buried in the Knight Cemetery in Browning Township.
55 Browning Township Cemeteries, Franklin County, Illinois, Inventoried by Curtis Mandrell, Paul Rose, Helen Lind, Evan Akin Pickard, published by the Frankfort Area Genealogical Society. p. 153. He’s buried in the Knight Cemetery in Browning Township.
56 Probate Record for E.L. Crawford – Ellen Crawford being duly sworn deposes and says that E.L. Crawford late of the County of Franklin, and State of Illinois is dead, and that he died on or about the 17th day of December A.D. 1872 and that his personal estate will probably amount to $1,200 that said E.L. Crawford left at the time of his decease Ellen Crawford his widow, and Madorah D. Martha C. & Charles Crawford his children.
57 Franklin County, Illinois Letters of Guardianship, Box 9. Found at West Frankfort Historical Society. “Ellen Crawford is appointed guardian for the person and property of Charles Crawford age 12 years” Dated July 2nd 1873″
58 St. Louis City Directories, found in the St. Louis County Public Library microfilms.
59 1880 Census, St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, Roll T9‐718, MF 1254718.
60 Missouri St. Louis City, City Clerk’s Office, Register of Death Vol. 14, p. 458. Marcella (Murphy) Bischoff told me that she thought that Mary Ellen was buried in the lot owned by her sister. She’s buried in a lot owned by Mr. Voelker. Ellen Crawford is living at 2510 N. 10th St. in St. Louis. The 1883 St. Louis City Directory lists Ellen Crawford widow of Erasmus residing at 2510 N. 10th St., living with George McFee & Charles Crawford. Company. Encyclopedia of the history of St. Louis: a compendium of history and ready reference, Southern History Co., Haldeman, Conard & Co, 1899, p. 1180, p. 2543. Note that both Charles Crawford and Theodore McFee worked in the publishing business in St. Louis.