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Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Andrew Watson Papers



What's online?

The entire collection is scanned and online.

What’s in the entire collection?

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.

About Hugh Henry Brackenridge

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.

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).

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.

About Andrew Watson

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.

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