Jane Young (1854-1935) was the daughter of Elizabeth Cupples (1824–1895), my 5th great-aunt, and her husband, John Young (1819-?), and is therefore part of the Cupples branch of my tree to be found in Ireland, Scotland, Australia and the United States.
Jane married Samuel Brownley McEwen (1853-1918) in Scotland on 31 Dec 1874 and their eldest two children, Elizabeth (1876) and Bethea (1877), were both born in Slamannan, a small mining village in Stirlingshire. Sometime after the birth of Bethea, the family decided to move to the United States.
The McEwens settled in North Braddock, a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, proudly nicknamed the “Birth Place of Steel” and indeed the majority of the McEwen men would go on to work in the steel works. The family initially settled in Brushton in Allegheny County according to the 1880 US Federal Census where Samuel was employed as a coal worker. The same census also reveals the birth of another daughter, Jennie, however Bethea is missing. An entry in the US Federal Census Mortality Schedules (1850-1885) reveals Bethea died of measles in May 1880, a month before the census was taken.
The McEwens moved to North Braddock where Jane would give birth to seven more children, five sons and two daughters, over the next few years. As time went on, the older children married and started families of their own while continuing to live close to their parents. Jane and Samuel’s first grandchild, Samuel Brownley Galbraith, was born to their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband, John Kinney Galbraith, in March 1894. The senior McEwens had followed the Scottish tradition of naming their children after grandparents, parents and siblings, however this would eventually phase out.
The steel industry was booming in the United States, particularly areas like Pennsylvania which was rich in iron ore and coal products, however the population wasn’t large enough to sustain the workload so immigrants from Europe arrived in droves to fill the gap. Pittsburgh soon become the centre of the steel industry with the arrival of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist, who was born in Dunfermline. Carnegie founded the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in 1872 at Braddock and he used its considerable profits to purchase other steel mills in the area, founding the Carnegie Steel Company in 1892. Braddock was transformed from an agrarian community into a thriving town with enclaves of workers living in tenement blocks close to the mill.
With the steel industry thriving and the population on the increase, Braddock became a haven for new businesses, such as restaurants, general stores and saloons. However, if you look at Braddock Avenue on Google Maps today, you’ll find it hard to imagine it once bustled with hotels, clothing stores, banks, and restaurants. In the same way, it is hard to imagine the deserted Bell Avenue was once full of residences and had a number of schools. The McEwens, like most residents, would have organised their lives around the 12 hour shifts at the steel works in a borough that never seemed to sleep. While the men toiled in dangerous and noxious conditions, the women kept the households running smoothly. However, the pollution caused by the steel works left a legacy of its own in the form of asthma, lung disease, and cancer, which continues to plague the residents today.
According to the statistics for the town, North Braddock had a population of 6,535 in 1900, however it would increase to 16,782 by 1930 after which it would steadily decrease to an estimated 4,740 in 2016, mainly due to the decline in the steel industry. North Braddock celebrated its centenary in June 1997 but twenty years on, the streets where generations of McEwen children once played, are rundown with derelict houses. Attempts to rejuvenate the area have largely failed due to a lack of money and the departure of two-thirds of the population.
Indeed, most of Samuel and Jane’s grandchildren would make a life elsewhere, ending the McEwen association with North Braddock. Towards the end of his life, Samuel B McEwen swapped his mining job to become a farm labourer but he died of pneumonia, aged 64 years, on 3 January 1918. Jane outlived her husband by seventeen years, dying of a stroke on 2 July 1935.
So, how did Jane and Samuel’s children fair?
Elizabeth McEwen (1876-1918)
Elizabeth was born on 19 February 1876 in Slamannan and was named after her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cupples (1824–1895).
Elizabeth was a child when her parents decided to emigrate to Pennsylvania. Elizabeth married John Kinney Galbraith on 29 July 1893 and they moved into a house on Bell Avenue near her parents. John had a variety of jobs in the steel industry which helped support his growing family. Elizabeth gave birth to their first child, Samuel Brownley Galbraith, named after his paternal grandfather, on 2 March 1894, and was followed by seven more boys and two girls. Elizabeth died of heart disease on 10 October 1940 and John died of the same condition on 20 April 1947.
Children: Samuel Brownley (1894–1972); William (1896–1931); John Kinney Jr (1898–1969); George W (1901–1955); Robert (1903–1951); Alice May (1906–1984); Clarence (1908–1982); Victor (1910–1983); Jean (1913–1992); Harry (1915–1920)
Bethea McEwen (1877-1880)
Bethea was born on 13 November 1877 in Slamannan and was named after her paternal grandmother, Bethea Whitelaw. Sadly, Bethea contracted measles soon after arriving in Pennsylvania and died in May 1880.
Jennie McEwen (1880-1950)
Jennie was the first of Jane and Samuel’s children to be born in the United States, however there is a discrepancy over her date of birth as most documentation states it as 14 January 1878. The 1878 date of birth cannot be possible as her older sister, Bethea, was born in November 1877 which has been verified on Scotlands People. I believe Jennie’s actual date of birth was 14 January 1880 as she is listed as being 3 months old on the 1880 US Federal Census.
Jennie, presumably named after her mother, married her first husband, George Weir, on 19 April 1901, and their daughter, Jeanette, was born on 27 January 1902. Jennie is listed as a widow on the 1920 US Federal Census where she is living in Bell Avenue with her daughter and is employed as a metal worker. On the 1930 US Federal Census, Jennie is employed as an assembler at an electric plant and is living alone since Jeanette is now married.
At some point over the next ten years, Jennie meets and marries her second husband, Donald McKim, and continues to reside in Bell Avenue. Sadly, Jennie was destined to outlive her only child as Jeanette died of acute pulmonary congestion on 13 January 1935. Jennie died on 5 December 1950 just a few months after Donald’s death on 21 April 1950.
Children: Jeanette (1902–1935)
Robert Wallace McEwen (1882-1953)
Robert was born on 2 February 1882 and was named after his paternal grandfather, Robert Wallace McEwen. Robert married Agnes Dove on 29 October 1902 and they had four children, three boys and a daughter. Robert enlisted in the army on 12 September 1918 just weeks before the Armistice, and is described as being of medium height with brown hair and brown eyes. Robert is also listed as having three fingers missing on his right hand with only the thumb and index finger remaining. Robert would also enlist during the Second World War, despite being 60 years old, and was described as having blue eyes and grey hair. The problem with his hand is never mentioned.
Robert was widowed when Agnes died of heart failure on 1 November 1943 and Robert married his second wife, Mary Gibson Lewis, on 31 March 1945. Robert died of heart disease on 27 August 1953 and his death certificate indicates he was employed in the confectionary business.
Children: Hazel (1903–1979); Robert Wallace Jr (1904–1951); Raymond Sherwood (1907–1990); William (1909–1972)
John Young McEwen (1884-1948)
John was born on 5 September 1884 and was named after his maternal grandfather, John Young (1819-1877). John married Florence Roofner around 1908 and they had four sons. Although John started out working in the steel industry like his brothers, he eventually became a police officer. He is described as being of medium height with brown hair and brown eyes on his World War I Draft Registration card. As with his brother, Robert, the draft records from the Second World War contradict this information by saying John has blue eyes. It also states he is working for the Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company which presumably indicates he retired from the police force.
John died, aged 63 years, on 8 August 1948 at Braddock General after suffering from a haemorrhage caused by high blood pressure and diabetes, while Florence, died of colon cancer on 21 May 1959 in McKeesport, Allegheny. All four of their sons moved away from Braddock.
Children: John Ardell (1910–1974); Charles Roofner (1912–1987); Jack Craig (1913–2003); Fred Collier (1916–2008)
Samuel Brownley McEwen Jr (1887-1941)
Samuel was born on 17 December 1887 and was named after his father. Samuel married Jane Leone McCullough and they had one son, Edward, who was born on 25 June 1916. While Samuel is listed with Jane and Edward on the 1920 US Federal Census, he is not with them in the 1930 US Federal Census nor the 1940 US Federal Census. Samuel seems to vanish from the records until his death certificate reveals he died of pneumonia on 20 December 1941. Jane supported herself and her son by dressmaking.
Children: Edward (1916–1996)
William Cupples McEwen (1891-1954)
William Cupples McEwen was born on 27 May 1891 and was given his grandmother’s maiden name as a middle name. William married Jane James around 1914 and they had a daughter, Martha, born on 21 July 1915. However, the marriage was a short-lived affair as Jane died sometime before the 1920 US Federal Census and William moved back home to live with his parents who helped raise Martha.
William enlisted on 5 June 1917 and is described as being tall with brown eyes and light brown hair with no physical problems. He is employed at the McEwen Coke & Coal Company in Braddock. William never remarried and died of acute hepatitis on 25 May 1954.
Children: Martha Isabella (1915–1994)
Margaret McEwen (1895-1954)
Margaret and her twin sister, Hazel, were born on 24 September 1895. Margaret married Roy Michael Stell and they had three sons and a daughter. Roy died of a stroke on 12 May 1962 and Margaret outlived him by 20 years, dying in 1982.
Children: Robert James (1916–1997); Margaret Olive (1917–2000); Roy Wayne (1921–2005); Reid Earl (1924–1996)
Hazel McEwen (1895-?)
Hazel and her twin sister, Margaret, were born on 24 September 1895. Hazel appears, aged 4 years, on the 1900 US Federal Census but there is no trace of her afterwards.
James McEwen (1899-1961)
James was born on 10 August 1899 and was the last child to be born to Samuel and Jane. James married Ruth Irene Hensell and they had two children, Robert and Hazel, however the marriage doesn’t seem to have been a happy one. James and Ruth are not living together in either the 1920 US Federal Census or the 1930 US Federal Census. In fact, James is listed as being single in the 1930 US Federal Census which confirms a separation.
James died of congestive heart failure on 5 January 1961 and his death certificate contains no information on his wife other than they are separated. I’m assuming the couple never formally divorced as Ruth did not marry her second husband, Samuel Davies, until after James’s death. Sadly, Ruth wasn’t married for long as Samuel died of a stroke on 16 July 1961 and Ruth then died of undetermined natural causes just eight days later.
Children: Robert James (1919–1980); Hazel Ruth (1922–?)
- Statutory Registers of Scotland [Scotlands People]
- Old Parish Records of Scotland [Scotlands People]
- 1861 UK Census [Ancestry UK]
- 1871 UK Census [Ancestry UK]
- 1880 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1900 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1910 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1920 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1930 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- 1940 United States Federal Census [Ancestry]
- Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1944 [Ancestry]
- US Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [Ancestry]
- World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [Ancestry]
- US World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [Ancestry]