The large, fine brick market house on the Soutside [sic] is about to be dedicated. The building itself was finished yesterday. The date of opening depends now upon the arrival and erection of the stands, which are being made by contractors in Chicago. It has been suggested to Chief Bigelow that the house might be dedicated on the Fourth of July, and this may be feasible.
The market square on the Southside, known as Bedford square, was given for market purposes by Dr. Nathaniel Bedford when he laid out the town of Birmingham in the autumn of 1811. In connection with the opening of the new building the people who will trade there ought to remember, with some degree of gratitude, the English physician to whom they are indebted for the market site.
For facts in reference to the various structures that have occupied that square I am indebted to Mr. David McDonald, the superintendent of the Southside market. The first market was a rude affair with a slanting roof, open on all sides, and like the house that may yet be seen out Penn avenue in the Ninth ward. Some time after 1850 a plain brick market house was put up. It was one story high and Bingham street ran through it. The familiar brick market house that preceded the present one was built in 1871–2. It was dedicated October 11, 1872. It was a gala occasion for the people of the borough, and speeches were made by 'Squire Salisbury, Dr. Kerr and other prominent citizens of Birmingham who are now dead. The contractor who turned over the keys to the building was John T. Natcher, who was murdered in Pittsburgh about three years ago. In the evening a grand ball was given in the market house by the Mechanic volunteer hose company. Superintendent McDonald was one of the managers of that ball.
A prominent figure.
Nathaniel Bedford, the donor of the market square, was a prominent figure in the early history of Pittsburgh. He was born in Birmingham, England. The date of his birth is unknown. It was given on his monument on the Southside, but the letters are now erased. John H. Nusser, who remembers seeing the inscription when he was young, says that the date of birth was either 1745 or 1754. I am inclined to think that it was the first year, for he had completed his medical studies in 1770. He could hardly have done that when he was only 16.
Facts concerning his life are scarce. Much that is recorded of him is handed down by tradition. It is said that he became a surgeon in the British army, and in that capacity came to America and to Ft. Pitt. Becoming enamored of this country or of somebody who lived here, he made this his home.
The date of his coming to Pittsburgh is uncertain. Russell Errett, in his contribution to the history of Allegheny county, quotes from the old Pittsburgh Gazette to the effect that he was here in 1765. This date is too early. Dr. Robert B. Mowry of Allegheny City, whose uncle was the partner of Dr. Bedford, has in his possession a diploma, dated London, April 3, 1770, signed by Wm. Osborn and Thos. Denman, certifying that Nathaniel Bedford had diligently attended their lectures on obstetrics. It is probable that he came here shortly after that date. It is not likely that he came during the Revolution. He was celebrated in after years as the first doctor at Pittsburgh. He was well established here in 1784, just after the Revolution, when Arthur Lee visited this place. He was a man of thorough education. In personal appearance he was somewhat of a dandy, was dressy and wore ruffled shirt-fronts and wrist-bands.
Had a good practice.
His practice must have been a good one, for he soon acquired a prominent position in the community and built a fine house on Liberty avenue. His lot extended from Liberty to Penn avenue and from Irwin street, now Seventh, to the alley midway between Seventh and Sixth streets. The house stood in about the middle of this large ground, with the front toward Liberty. It was of cottage style, the central part being two stories high, with a one-story wing at either side. Dr. Mowry says that he remembers this old house when he was a boy. It was for many years the home of James Adams.
The Pittsburgh academy was incorporated by act of the legislature March 24, 1787, and Dr. Bedford was, by the act, made one of the 21 trustees. This school was, 30 years afterward, merged into the Western University of Pennsylvania.
It must have been about this time that he was married to Miss Jane Ormsby, the third child and eldest daughter of John Ormsby, the pioneer at this place of that celebrated family. There was great disparity in the ages of the husband and wife. He was, if the supposed date of his birth be correct, 24 years her senior. It was through his marriage with this estimable woman that the doctor came into the possession of a large tract of land on the south side of the Monongahela. John Ormsby settled this tract upon his daughter, and it included what are now the Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth wards. The doctor afterward made his home on this land, and was living there at the time of his death. A portion of the old house that he lived in was standing until about two years ago, when it was demolished in the course of the construction of the new Twelfth street incline.
Dr. Peter Mowry.
It was in 1786 that Peter Mowry entered the shop of Dr. Bedford as an apprentice. He swept the shop, made pills and later accompanied the doctor on his visits. Mr. Mowry attended lectures at Philadelphia and on his return married a daughter of Judge Addison and entered into partnership with Dr. Bedford. Mowry was born in 1770 and died in 1833, having attained a high position in his profession. He has left no direct descendants. Dr. R. B. Mowry is a nephew and Dr. W. B. Mowry a grand nephew. An old portrait of Dr. Peter Mowry, showing him at about the age of 30, hangins in the home of Dr. R. B. Mowry.
Mrs. Jane Bedford died July 8, 1790, at the age of 21. Her body lies in Trinity churchyard with the remains of her father and mother. Jane Bedford is said to have been a beautiful and accomplished woman. The following lines are from a poem published on the occasion of her death:
"The soul that animated that same clay
Was wise and good,
With every exellence [sic] endued
That could the sex exalt:
Without a foible or a fault."
Some time after the death of his wife Dr. Bedford contracted a marriage with her pretty maid. Of this young woman I have been able to learn only that her name was Mary. Whence she came or whither she went I do not know. Dr. Bedford's connection with her resulted in the severance of all intercourse between him and the members of the Ormsby family. There are indications in his later life that this alliance was an unfortunate one.
What a letter showed.
The letter from Captain John Morgan to Dr. Bedford, dated December 23, 1793, and published in The Post October 23, 1892, shows that the doctor was hospitable to army officers sojourning at Pittsburgh, and indicates that at that time he was still on good terms with John Ormsby and family. Captain Morgan wrote, "We send our united compliments to Mrs. Butler and Mr. Ormsby's family."
In 1798 a lottery was organized in Pittsburgh to raise money to erect piers along the banks of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers to defend the banks from the encroachments of the water. Dr. Bedford was one of the nine managers of this lottery, the other managers being the most prominent citizens of the place. Six thousand tickets were sold at $5 each.
The town of Birmingham was laid out in 1811. It was cut out of St. Clair township. Dr. Bedford had it surveyed and laid off in lots, which he sold. A large part of the land he retained in his own name, in the southern part of the town, adjoining his homestead on the side of the hill. The main street, Carson, he named for an old sea captain living in Philadelphia. It has been suggested to me that this Captain Carson was the father of the wife of General James O'Hara, whose maiden name was Mary Carson. Bingham street was named for Dr. Bedford's sister, Mrs. Martha Bingham of Birmingham, Eng. Sixth street was called Oliver, for Oliver Ormsby. Eighth street was called Joseph, for Joseph Ormsby, and Thirteenth street was called Ormsby. Sidney street was named for Miss Sidney Ormsby, the younger sister of Mrs. Jane Bedford. For the latter lady Jane street was named. The town itself was named after the native city of Dr. Bedford in England. Miss Sidney Ormsby married Isaac Gregg and Seventh street was called Gregg.
Weakness of later years.
In his later years, according to traditions recited by the older residents, Dr. Bedford became much dissipated. He neglected his practice, much of which passed to Dr. Peter Mowry. His executor's accounts show that he contracted many debts. He died at his home on the Southside hill, March 21, 1818. His will, written four days before his death, contains this clause: "Being weak in body but of sound and disposing mind and memory." His funeral was conducted by the Freemasons. He had been a member, and at one time worshipful master of Ohio lodge, No. 113, the second lodge of that order formed in Pittsburgh. The undertakers at the funeral were I. & N. Darragh, whose bill was $99 19.
The body was laid away in a vault on the hillside above his home. This vault was on the site of the present residence of Mr. John Nusser, beside the Twelfth street incline, and just above the line of the Pittsburgh, Virginia & Charleston railroad.
In 1822 the Freemasons erected over the grave a sandstone monument, bearing on its top an urn. This monument contained on one side, the right hand side shown in the cut, the name of the dead, the date of his birth and death, and a few lines of poetry. This inscription is entirely gone. The stone at this day does not indicate that it ever bore any lettering. I have been unable to find any person on the Southside who knows the inscription. An old colored man, Henry Jackson, knew it, although he could not read. He is now living in Wisconsin. On the side opposite, not shown in the picture, there are the insignia of the Masonic craft. These are in a pretty good condition of preservation. There are the sun and moon, the book and compasses, the three great lights, the gavel, the rule, etc.
At the time of the anti-Masonic excitement the monument was thrown down and buried in the ground. After the death of Dr. Bedford, so Mr. John Nusser tells me, the land containing the grave was sold at sheriff's sale, and was bought by George Duncan, now living at Beaver Falls. He afterward sold it to a German Methodist congregation, who erected a brick church. This church is a part of the residence of Mr. Nusser. When the church was built the body was reinterred some distance to the north of its former resting place, right on the edge of the hill in front of the church building. The burial spot is supposed to be under a lilac bush, shown at the left of the cut.
The church was sold out in 1854, and Mr. Nusser then bought the property. He is a Freemason, and he at once set to work to search for the old monument. The top part was found at once in a gully near the house, but the base, containing the inscriptions, was not found until 1868. It was then discovered while workmen were digging a cellar under the south part of the house. Mr. Nusser set up the monument and has cared for it since.
As will be seen by the sketch herewith, the monument leans to the south. John H. Nusser intends to have it straightened, and the work may be done by the time this is published. In several places, where the stone has been chipped off by the weather, repairs have been made with plaster. The top of the monument can be plainly seen rising above the shrubs in Mr. Nusser's front yard as one ascends Twelfth street. It is surrounded by roses and lilac bushes.
The will of Dr. Bedford is recorded in will book No. 2, page 146, in the register's office. Its date is March 17, 1818. It was drawn by Walter Forward, one of the most eminent of the early attorneys of the Allegheny county bar, and the witnesses were Mr. Forward, Frederick Went and Edward Encell, Jr. The executors named in the will were Mrs. Mary Bedford, Dr. Peter Mowry and James Patterson. The latter acted for all three. He had been employed by Dr. Bedford to care for a tract of land owned by the doctor in Mercer county.
Dr. Bedford's will.
The will bestowed the property in the following manner:
To Mrs. Mary Bedford, the 60-acre homestead in and adjoining the town of Birmingham, with the buildings, coal banks, etc., and all movable property, including horses, cattle, garden utensils, matches (guns), time pieces, plate, etc.
To Dr. Peter Mowry, Bedford's one-third interest in six tracts of land on Neshannock and Slippery Rock creeks, in Mercer county, which he held in partnership with Dr. Mowry, and all his books, maps and manuscripts. These books are now in the possession of Dr. R. B. Mowry.
To John Anderson of Mercer county, a tract of land on the waters of Neshannock creek, on which Anderson had lived, and another tract on which McFarland, Anderson's father-in-law, lived.
To Samuel Bedford, seven lots in Franklin, Venango county, and a lot of about three acres near that town.
To James Patterson of Birmingham, Clingan's tract, near the Shenango creek, where Patterson was living.
To his brother, William Bedford, an annuity of $200.
All the rest of the estate equally to Bedford Mowry, son of Dr. Peter Mowry, and Nathaniel Bedford Bingham, son of his sister, Mrs. Martha Bingham of Birmingham, England.
The account of the acting executor, James Patterson, shows that the receipts of the estate were $3,757 30 and the expenditures $5,402 71, so that it was undoubtedly necessary to sell some of the real estate to square matters.
Mrs. Mary Bedford, the widow, lived for some time afterward at Bayardstown, out Penn avenue, as shown by the Pittsburgh directory of 1819. That is the last record I have found of her. Dr. Bedford left no descendants.
E. W. Hassler.