Summary Information
Title: Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Andrew Watson Papers
Collection Number: DAR.1937.04
Creator: Brackenridge, H. H. (Hugh Henry), 1748-1816
Creator: Watson, Andrew, 1755-1823

Collection Dates: 1784-1827
Extent: 0.21 linear feet (1 box and 1 oversize folder)

Language: English

The majority of the collection consists of the business papers and correspondence of Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Andrew Watson regarding various properties in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hugh Henry Brackenridge, a prolific writer and political commentator of the time, practiced law in Pittsburgh and founded the Gazette newspaper. Andrew Watson was involved in property sales and officiated Pittsburgh land transactions for Hugh Henry Brackenridge. Many Pittsburgh properties change hands throughout the papers; deeds, leases and other documents are witnessed by a variety of Pittsburgh residents. Digital reproductions of this collection are available online.

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
Date Published:

July 2007

Finding aid prepared by Crystal Hanna and Angela Manella.
Revision Description:
November 2009:
Controlled access terms revised (dar)


Hugh Henry Brackenridge, born in 1748 in Scotland, moved to Pennsylvania with his family as a young child. Brackenridge began a teaching career when he was fifteen years old, continuing his own education in 1768 at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. While attending Princeton, he became an avid participant in the American Whig Society and collaborated on works in this literary society with its founders, Philip Freneau, William Bradford, and James Madison.

After graduating in 1771, Brackenridge taught in Maryland while completing his Master's degree in divinity at Princeton. He went on to serve in George Washington's army during the Revolutionary War as a chaplain. Following this experience, Brackenridge published a magazine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called the United States Magazine between 1778 and 1780. However, the magazine was unsuccessful and Brackenridge changed professions again. Brackenridge was admitted to the bar in 1780 and moved to Pittsburgh in 1781.

The formation of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in which Pittsburgh now resides, is partly credited to Brackenridge and his dual effort to enhance the legal system and educate the common man of the frontier. In Pittsburgh, Brackenridge started a law firm and became an active member of the Allegheny County Bar with Alexander Addison and John Woods. Brackenridge is credited with establishing the first bookstore and the first Pittsburgh newspaper, the Pittsburgh Gazette, and continued his own literary works as well as essays on law. He won an election to the state assembly, where he fought for the adoption of the Federal Constitution and obtained endowments for the establishment of the Pittsburgh Academy (University of Pittsburgh). He became unpopular locally for siding with Pennsylvania in maintaining that western lands should not become a separate state dubbed "Westylania". He also fashioned himself as a mediator who sought to preserve unity with the federal government during the Whiskey Rebellion. After this spell of bad publicity, Brackenridge ran for the United States Congress, but was defeated by Albert Gallatin in 1793, a political rival he despised. Brackenridge's opinions of Gallatin are reflected in his correspondence with Alexander Addison, and are located in the Addison papers listed in the "related materials" section below.

In December 1799, Governor Thomas McKean appointed Brackenridge a justice of the Pennysylvania Supreme Court. During his years as a judge (1799-1814), beyond penning foundational legal codes for the state, Brackenridge wrote satires, narratives, and published more of his sermons. Modern Chivalry is probably the most famous of his narratives that is full of humor and truth morals and was written for the good of the public; it was published in 1796 after his political career had ended. The story brings to light political corruption, greed, poor leadership and lack of education--all characterized by Brackenridge with wit.

Brackenridge wrote prolifically throughout his life, publishing such works such as The Battle of Bunker Hill (1776), The Death of General Montgomery, The Siege of Quebec (1777), Modern Chivalry (1796), and Law Miscellanies (1814).

Brackenridge's family life in Pittsburgh is unclear, but he did have one son, Henry Marie, who was cared for by friends in his early life, and was sent to Louisiana by his father for a proper French education. Henry Marie Brackenridge became a prominent figure and judge during his time, and carried on the literary interests of his father. Please refer to the "related materials" section below for information about Henry Marie and other Brackenridge family members. Hugh Henry Brackenridge began a second family with his wife, Sabina Wolfe, adding two more sons and a daughter, William, Alexander, and Cornelia. Hugh Henry Brackenridge died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on June 25, 1816.

Much less is known about Andrew Watson (1755-1823). He is briefly mentioned in the 1889 book History of Allegheny County as a landowner on Market Street in 1795, and as a signatory on an 1817 petition. Andrew Watson married Margaret Thompson (1759-1829) and they had at least one child, a daughter named Elizabeth Watson. Elizabeth Watson married Reverend Doctor John Black (1768-1849) and together they had eleven children, including John Black and Andrew Watson Black. There is some confusion in the papers about who is being referenced by the name "Andrew Watson." The Andrew Watson appearing in the papers after 1823 may in fact be the grandson, son of Elizabeth Watson and John Black. Based upon the papers in this collection, land changed hands between Andrew Watson and Brackenridge , and between their family members after both Brackenridge and Andrew Watson had died. Andrew Watson also appears to have conducted business on Brackenridge's behalf, including land lease, sales, and payment of taxes, when Brackenridge was in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Collection Scope and Content Notes

The majority of the collection consists of the business papers of Hugh Henry Brackenridge, including receipts, agreements, stock, and correspondence related to various properties. Some of the property transactions were officiated by Andrew Watson on behalf of Brackenridge. Many of the same plots of property change hands throughout the papers; deeds, leases, and other documents are witnessed by a variety of Pittsburgh residents. The collection contains an undated sketch of Watson family plots, some of which correspond to properties referenced elsewhere in this collection. The papers also contain a number of deeds Andrew Watson held on land purchased from Sabina Brackenridge following the death of her husband.

A small number of papers relate to the same plots of land exchanged by members of the Brackenridge and Watson families after the deaths of Brackenridge and Andrew Watson in 1816 and 1823, respectively. There are also references in the collection to Brackenridge's financial support of his sister-in-law, Mary.

A number of other people are mentioned peripherally in the papers, and are listed in the itemized scope content notes below, including Isaac Gregg, James Alexander, George Wallace, James G. Herron, G. J. Woods, John Wilkins, Jeremiah Barker, McKean, Ross, Edward McCuen, "Negro Phillip," William Cunningham, John Park, Abnes Barker, David Wallace, Matthew Logan, Henry Wolfe, Tom Hayes, a witness with the surname Irwin, and Zadok Cramer.

As an additional note, Brackenridge's reputation for poor penmanship is well deserved, making many of the items in this collection difficult to decipher. Please note that Brackenridge is often referred to as "H.H. Brackenridge" or "H.H." within the papers.


All the documents in this collection are listed in chronological order. Because much of the material relates to land sales, a chronological arrangement of deeds, correspondence, receipts, and various contracts helps contextualize each record.

Subject Terms

  • Lawyers -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh

Personal Names
  • Brackenridge, H. H. (Hugh Henry), 1748-1816
  • Watson, Andrew, 1755-1823

  • Allegheny County (Pa.) -- History
  • Allegheny County (Pa.) -- Politics and government
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- History
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Politics and government
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.) -- Social life and customs
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1789-1815
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1815-1861

  • Correspondence
  • Deeds

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Gift to the Darlington Memorial Library in 1937.

Alternate Format:

Digital reproductions of this collection are available online.

Custodial History:

This collection was located in the Darlington Memorial Library in the University’s Cathedral of Learning until 2007 when it was moved to the ULS Archives Service Center for processing, storage, preservation and service. However, it remains in the custodianship of the ULS Special Collections Department.

Preferred Citation:

Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Andrew Watson Papers, 1784-1827, DAR.1937.04, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Angela Manella in October 2006.


No copyright restrictions.

Related Material:

Henry Marie Brackenridge and Family Papers, 1817-1889, DAR.1937.03, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

Alexander Addison Papers, 1786-1803, DAR.1925.06, Darlington Collection, Special Collections Department, University of Pittsburgh

Papers of the Brackenridge Family, 1796-1963, MSS #160, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Papers of the McClelland Family, 1821-1977, MSS #66, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Separated Material:
Oversize: Watson Deeds


  • Black Family. Papers of the McClelland Family, 1821-1977, MSS#66, Finding Aid. Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.
  • History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Chicago:A. Warner & Co., 1889.
  • A Princeton Companion Princeton University Press, 1978.
  • Alberts, Robert C. Pitt: The Story of the University of Pittsburgh 1787-1987. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987.

Collection Inventory
Oversize 1 Andrew Watson Deed, 1784

John Penn, Jr., and John Penn, Sr., sold lot 225 to Andrew Watson.

Box 1
Folder 1 H. H. Brackenridge Deed, July 23, 1796

This is a deed of sale by Andrew Watson and his wife Margret [sic] to H. H. Brackenridge.

Oversize 2 Watson Deed, July 24, 1790

H. H. Brackenridge sells a portion of lot number 226 to Andrew Watson. The deed refers to George Woods' plans of Pittsburgh land, including lot number 226. The deed also outlines the previous sale of the lot to H. H. Brackenridge by Westmoreland county sheriff James Guthrie following a 1790 lawsuit involving Thomas Hutchins and Alexander Fowler.

Folder 2 H. H. Brackenridge Deed, July 24, 1790

Deed of land sale from Andrew and Margaret Watson to H. H. Brackenridge.

Folder 3 H. H. Brackenridge Settlement, July 13, 1791

This short, quarter page note settles all of Andrew Watson's debts to H. H. Brackenridge.

Folder 4 Andrew Watson Notice, July 13, 1796

This notice of discusses water pumps and lists Andrew Watson, Jones, and Irwin as regulators.

Folder 5 H. H. Brackenridge Road Tax Receipts, 1796-1819

This is a receipt of taxes paid by Watson on H. H. Brackenridge's behalf.

Folder 6 H. H. Brackenridge Permit to "Philip A. Wyss, a Negro", July 28, 1800

Transcript: "Having a certain lot of ground a mile or more distant from Pittsburgh, formerly a part of the plantation of Archibald (Frew?), and purchased from him at publick sales, on which there is a small house and road (?) I shall and do hereby permit Philip a Negro to inhabit, and occupy the said during his life, to make such use of it and improvements on it as he may think proper."

Folder 7 H. H. Brackenridge Rental Agreement, September 22, 1801

Only a portion of this letter remains. Andrew Watson is mentioned in a sentence fragment at the top. The agreement concerns land in Pittsburgh and the vicinity. It mentions allowing "Negro Philip" to live on Grant's Hill and was witnessed by Tarelton Bates.

Folder 8 H. H. Brackenridge to Andrew Watson, September 23, 1803

This correspondence relates to lot number 18 in Pittsburgh, near the Allegheny River.

Folder 9 Andrew Watson Indenture, February 18, 1804

This contract apprentices Andrew Watson, Jr., to William Hayes. It is signed by Andrew Watson and Andrew Watson (Black).

Folder 10 H. H. Brackenridge Statement of Taxes, June 6, 1805

This is a receipt for Pittsburgh city taxes paid by Andrew Watson on H. H. Brackenridge's behalf.

Folder 11 H. H. Brackenridge Statement of Account, November 13, 1805

This ledger documents debts to H. H. Brackenridge owed by Matthew Login, Andrew Watson, and William Cunningham.

Folder 12 H. H. Brackenridge to Andrew Watson, February 7, 1806

In this letter, H. H. Brackenridge writes to Watson from his family home in Carlisle, PA, regarding a lease.

Folder 13 H. H. Brackenridge Lease, March 13, 1806

This memorandum regards a property lease involving Isaac Gregg and Zadok Cramer. This property housed the printing office of the "Tree of Liberty." The document is also signed by Andrew Watson, William Watson and James Alexander.

Folder 14 H. H. Brackenridge Rental Agreement, March 24, 1806

The above is an agreement between H. H. Brackenridge and Edward McCuen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The letter is witnessed by Alexander Watson. The agreement refers to a lot on Grant's Hill formally occupied by "Negro Philip," and McCuen agrees not to dig coal on this lot.

Folder 15 H. H. Brackenridge Settlement, September 29, 1806

This settlement with Zadok Cramer was facilitated by Andrew Watson on H. H. Brackenridge's behalf.

Folder 16 H. H. Brackenridge to Andrew Watson, November 7, 1806

From Carlisle, Pennsylvania, H. H. Brackenridge discusses bidding on a house and lot at Market Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Andrew Watson.

Folder 17 H. H. Brackenridge Agreement, September 15, 1807

This document agreement pertains to H. H. Brackenridge's sale of about three acres of meadow ground to Andrew Watson for three hundred dollars.

Folder 18 H. H. Brackenridge Bill of Sale, October 27, 1807

Sale of land by H. H. Brackenridge to Andrew Watson.

Folder 19 H. H. Brackenridge Memorandum to Andrew Watson, October 10, 1808

This letter is almost indecipherable due to H. H. Brackenridge's penmanship.

Folder 20 H. H. Brackenridge Receipt, February 4, 1809

The receipt is for William Foster's subscription to the publication, "Tree of Liberty."

Folder 21 H. H. Brackenridge to Andrew Watson, May 10, 1813

This letter may have been transcribed. The correspondence relates to a Market Street property in Pittsburgh. It also refers to several items of business involving Abner Barker, Mrs. General Barker and Cramer & Co.

Folder 22 H. H. Brackenridge Family Agreement, September 11, 1813

This document consists of three separate entries spanning fifty-three years. First is Hugh Henry Brackenridge's September 11, 1813 agreement to pay an annuity to support his sister-in-law Mary and family in the case of John Brackenridge's death. Second, on the reverse side of the page is an accounting of annuity money paid to Mary and accounted for by Catherine Brackenridge, documenting funeral and other expenses in connection with the July 16, 1826 death of Mary Brackenridge. Catherine Brackenridge was the daughter of John Brackenridge, Hugh Henry Brackenridge's brother. Third, on December 22, 1866, H. H. Brackenridge's son, Alexander Brackenridge, wrote a letter on a portion of the original annuity agreement to William McCullough Darlington offering this document as the Hugh Henry Brackenridge autograph that Darlington had earlier requested for his collection.

Folder 23 Alexander Brackenridge Agreement, July 12, 1817

Alexander Brackenridge agrees to sell a piece of land adjoining Second Street to Andrew Watson, witnessed by L. Stewart.

Folder 24 Alexander Brackenridge Agreement, September 25, 1817

Alexander Brackenridge sells to Andrew Watson land willed to Alexander Brackenridge by his father, Hugh Henry Brackenridge.

Oversize 3 Andrew Watson Lease Agreement, December 23, 1817

Sabina Brackenridge leases lot 226 to Andrew Watson following H. H. Brackenridge's death. The lease is signed on Sabina Brackenridge's behalf by her son, Alexander Brackenridge.

Folder 25 Stock Agreement, February 24, 1820

This certificate conveys a share of stock to Mrs. Hugh Henry Brackenridge in Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg Turnpike Road Company. The document is signed by Benjamin Reynolds, President and J. B. Parker, treasurer.

Folder 26 Andrew Watson Memorandum of Agreement, July 13, 1821

In this memorandum, Andrew Watson and Sabina Wolfe Brackenridge agree on terms for the use of a Market Street property.

Oversize 4 Andrew Watson Lease Agreement, July 13, 1821

In this lease, Sabina Brackenridge revises Andrew Watson's lease on lot number 266. The lease is signed on Sabina Brackenridge's behalf by her attorney and son, Alexander Brackenridge.

Oversize 5 Robert Watson Deed, August 6,1827

Robert Watson paid William Henry Brackenridge $5.00 for portions of lot number seven left to Robert Watson in Andrew Watson's will. The folder contains two copies of the deed.

Folder 27 Alexander Watson Agreement, August 23, 1827

This agreement relates to Tunnel Street and lists Alex Watson, Andrew Watson, John Black, and others, as Trustees.

Folder 28 Andrew Watson Housing Survey of Pittsburgh, undated

This partial survey chart landownership in Pittsburgh, showing the lands of Andrew Watson, John Park, Abnes Barker, David Wallace, and Matthew Logan.

Folder 29 Watson Family Residential Plots Map, undated

This diagram shows numbered plots labeled with the names of residents. Many of the residents share the Watson family name, but other family names are present. The streets are shown, but not named.

Folder 30 H. H. Brackenridge to Sir, undated

This business letter includes a pencil note with biographical notes about H. H. Brackenridge, presumably added at a later date.

Folder 31 H. H. Brackenridge to Sir, undated

The letter references George Wallace, James G. Herron, G. J. Woods, John Wilkins, Jeremiah Barker, Andrew Watson, McKean and Ross. This folder also contains an undated, handwritten transcription of the letter by staff at the Darlington Library.