The Anderson Farm

The Anderson Farm - 1936
The Anderson Farm, or Anderson's Acres, was owned and operated by the Anderson family from 1874 to 1947.
The farm shows the contrast between 19th century rural Brookline and the 20th century urban neighborhood.

The Anderson's - One of Brookline's Pioneer Families

Above is a view of the Anderson Farm in East Brookline, between Brookline Boulevard and Breining Street, in the late 1930s. This is now the site of Brookline Memorial Park, but from the mid-1800s through the 1940s, this was the home of one of Brookline's pioneer families.

Turning back the clock to the 19th century, we see Brookline, once part of West Liberty Borough in lower St. Clair Township, as mainly farmland. The rolling hills were part of the breadbasket that fed the needs of the growing population of the city of Pittsburgh. This continued until the early 1900s, when residential development began to creep into the area.

The Anderson's were one of the families that worked these fields and their contributions to Brookline's heritage, and it's future, stretch far beyond the borders of the twenty-acre Anderson Farm.

The Anderson Family story begins in 1849. James Anderson was born in a log house on Oakridge Street, then known as Ormond Street. Back in those days, farm fields in East Brookline stretched all the way from Breining Street across the ravine to the hills on the other side of Brookline Boulevard, where streets like Bellaire Place and Milan Avenue now sit.

Young James and his family grew up working these fields. In 1874, at age 25, he married Anna Mary Fischer. The Fischer family owned a farm on Edgebrook Avenue. The new couple purchased the twenty acres of farmland on the south side of Brookline Boulevard, from the ravine to Breining Street. The newlyweds set about raising a family and farming the fields on the newly christened Anderson Farm, known locally as Anderson's Acres.

During their first twenty years together, James and Mary lived in a log cabin they erected on the property. As the family grew, eleven children in all, the need for more living space led to the building of a large farmhouse, with a couple of outlying structures to house their chickens and farm animals. The home was built in 1895.

The Anderson Family in 1904.
The Anderson Family in 1904. Sadie is standing to the left and Emma is standing to the right. Phillip is sitting next
to James, and Mabel is the young girl sitting between James and Mary. Young William is sitting in the front.

On their farm, James Anderson and family grew corn, tomatos, beans and turnips. They had an orchard where they grew strawberries and grapes, and there were rows of fruit trees that produced sickle pears, bartlett pears and apples. They also had chickens for fresh eggs and cows for milk.

James and Mary Anderson had seven sons, Phillip, George, James, Albert, Charles, Wallace and William. There were also four daughters, Mary (Mayme), Sara (Sadie), Emma and Mabel, youngest of the eleven. The children attended school during the day and tended to the fields when at home. It was a hard life, but one quite typical for families of that era.

Mary, Sarah, Mabel, Emma and Wallace
 standing in the back of the farmhouse
Mary Fisher Anderson stands in the back of the farmhouse with her children Sarah, Mabel, Emma and Wallace.

Ruth Smith, daughter of Mabel Anderson, shared many of her mother's reminiscences of life on the farm.

While most of the family flock tended to the fields, James Anderson and son Phillip would harness their horses to the wagon and head off through the streets of Brookline to sell their produce to the residents of the community. Their biggest seller was fresh corn.

One day a week, they would take their produce to the city, where large crowds gathered by the wharf to sample the fresh products at the Farmer's Market. They would make the trip up Brookline Boulevard and down Pioneer Avenue to one of the inclines on Warrington.

From there it was up to Mount Washington and down an incline on the other side. Then they crossed the Smithfield Bridge to the wharf area, where many of the local farmers gathered to sell their goods. At the end of the day they would make the long and arduous journey back to Brookline.

Phillip Anderson and his draft horses at the
intersection of Saw Mill Run and Route 88.
Phillip Anderson was the true horseman in the family. Phillip traveled the streets of Brookline selling produce.

Back on the farm, life was no simpler. The children worked the fields and made several homemade products like butter, apple butter, ketchup and grape pies for sale at the local stores. Sadie was an accomplished tailor, making most of the clothes for the family, and the girls also excelled at making quilts.

The men handled much of the back-breaking chores like hitching the horses to plow and clearing land for more space. Phillip was the family horseman, and he spent most of his time caring for his special friends.

Sadie, Emma, Mayme and Mabel Anderson making
 Apple Butter.  Making Ketchup, a Pittsburgh tradition!
Sadie, Emma, Mayme and Mabel Anderson making apple butter (left) and another family tradition, making ketchup.

The family subsisted mainly on their crops and the products they made. The women were excellent cooks and the men would hunt small game and deer on the property and in the outlying woods.

Mabel and the ladies were not too fond of preparing the meat, but they reluctantly complied. When the weather was foul, the kids would gather to play games like checkers, and to put together puzzles. Matriarch Mary was not fond of card playing, but the kids would sneak in an occassional game.

Also, on snowy mornings, the kids would get a special ride to school by Phillip, who harnessed the horses to a sleigh and would make the trip to Fairhaven School in Overbrook. The children had a great time and their fellow students would get quite a thrill seeing this unique mode of transportation. Like all kids, they loved the horses!

The farm was a family enterprise, and everyone was paid a wage for their efforts. The standard pay was $1 a day, or $365 per year. The family prospered.

Margaret, Emma and William gathering hay
 for the horses
Margaret, Emma and William gathering hay for the horses. Sadie, the family tailor, made the hats that the women
are wearing. The hats were made long in the back to keep the sun off their necks when they worked in the fields.

James Anderson passed away in 1907, and Mary took over as leader of the clan. Throughout the next thirty years, life on the farm continued much the same as it always had. As time passed the children grew to adulthood and married. Some stayed in the family home and others settled near the farm in the Brookline area.

Emma married Adolph Schulze and settled in the home right at the entrance to the farm on Breining Street. Adolph was a Spanish-American War veteran and in the late-1930s became a Pittsburgh policeman, walking the beat in the Lawrenceville area. William married Margaret Bertha Schulze in 1926 and they settled in the farmhouse.

Emma and Margaret tending to the cow.

Emma Anderson Schulz and Margaret Anderson tending to the family cow.

As the family continued to grow and multiply, the siblings would still gather every day at the farm for the daily rituals of farm life. Ruth remembers Mabel speaking of the day that she lost her engagement ring while picking strawberrys, and could never find it. It's probably still out there somewhere!

While the Anderson's farming life proceeded with daily regularity, the community of Brookline began to grow rapidly around them. The local population boomed in the 1920s. Residential development in East Brookline engulfed the hills and surrounded the farm.

The many grandchildren of James and Mary now went to the modern Brookline School. The family became members of the newly built United Presbyterian Church on Brookline Boulevard, of which Emma was an active member of the Women's Bible Class.

Pittsburgh Railways trolleys now passed by regularly on the northern edge of the farm and cars buzzed by on the southern edge. In between this urban bustle, on Anderson's Acres, it seemed as if time stood still.

Most of the other family farms in the Brookline area were sold off for commercial and residential lots. The Fleming Farm, Knowlson's Farm, Marloff's Farm and the old Hayes Farm in East Brookline, of which Anderson's Acres were once a part, were all but a distant memory.

Soon, only the Anderson Farm remained. It became like a part of rural America right in the middle of a bustling metropolitan community, and Brookliners reaped the benefits of this unusual situation.

Phillip, who make his living with his horses, made his daily rounds through the Brookline streets. The residents would gather to sample the fresh produce and this became a neighborhood ritual. As the march of time brought motorized transport to the world, Phillip stuck with his precious horses.

The clippity-clop of the hooves on the cobblestone streets were a beacon to the residents that the sweet corn and strawberries were on the way. The kids also got a special treat, coming out to gaze at the beautiful draft horses.

An Anderson family gathering in the
 mid-1930s.
A family gathering in the mid-1930s. Matriarch Mary Fischer Anderson is seated at the head of the table surrounded
by her children and grandchildren. William and Margaret are standing second and third from the right. Second on the
left is William Anderson Jr, father of Doris Anderson Morrison. Standing next to William Jr is Mabel Anderson's
daughter Ruth. Doris and Ruth were the sources of our information on the Anderson family.

Doris Anderson Morrison, the granddaughter of William Anderson recalls how William had an aversion to automobiles, refering to them as "machines" and resisting the call of industrialization.

Eventually, in 1936, Emma's husband Adolph broke down and purchased a white pickup truck. The horses would not have to tackle the hills of Brookline any longer, but the people of Brookline lost one of their last great links to the past.

Mary Fischer Anderson passed away in 1936. By now the march of time was catching up with the family, and for the first time they considered selling the property and retiring from the farm life.

An aerial view of the Anderson Farm in 1939.
An aerial view of the Anderson Farm in May 1939.

As the decade of the 1940s began, the family prepared to close down the farm, after nearly seventy years, and settle down to raise their respective families.

Sadie handled the sale of the property, and in 1947 decided to accept an offer from the Community Center Association of Brookline, which was looking for a large tract of land to develop into a recreation area and park for the community. The Anderson's held the keys to that dream, and they passed on those keys for a sale price of a little under $20,000.

Brookline Journal - May 9, 1947

The entire twenty acres were sold. William left the family home and settled in the Brookline area. The rest of the Anderson's were dispersed throughout the Overbrook, Brookline and Bethel areas. Only Wallace, the third youngest of the eleven children, continued in the farming business. He and wife Gertrude purchased a farm in Cochraton, Pennsylvania.

Sadie had two homes built on Oakridge Street and Emma continued to live on Breining until her death in the late 1970s. William bought one of those homes on Oakridge and settled in for his retirement years. He and Margaret helped raise their granddaughter Doris, who along with her cousin Ruth are the source of this fascinating story.

Wallace Anderson with the family horses.
Wallace Anderson continued in the farming business.

While the members of the Anderson family went about their new lives away from the farm, the land, now refered to as the Brookline Memorial Community Center, was developed slowly over the next twenty years.

In 1951 a baseball field was constructed. The Brookline Little League began play the following season. The aging farmhouse was renovated and used as a community gathering place and recreation hall.

In 1961 a Pony League baseball field was built. The fields to the right of the house were leveled to the treeline and carnivals were held yearly. In 1965 the original recreation building was erected and in the wintertime an ice skating rink was constructed.

Then, in 1966, in an unprecedented move, the land was sold by the Community Center Association to the city of Pittsburgh for $1, with the promise that it would be developed into a park and recreational facility.

Over the next 35 years the city did just that, spending millions of dollars to develop Brookline Memorial Park into one of the city's showcase community parks. And through it all, most of the members of the Anderson family were just a stones throw away, watching with wonder and amazement as their home was transformed beyond their wildest imaginations.

Brookline Memorial Park - Summer 2002
The City of Pittsburgh invested millions of dollars transforming Anderson's Acres into a first-class park.

The only downside to the whole story occured in 1971, when the original farmhouse burned down. Poor Emma, who practically lived next door, was in tears, as was the entire Anderson clan.

That was a sad day not only for the Anderson's, but for the community as a whole. One of Brookline's historic neighborhood landmarks was gone, but it would never be forgotten, especially by the family that had made it their home for half a century.

As time passed, the original eleven children of James and Mary Anderson moved on to more heavenly pastures, with baby Mabel being the last to part at the ripe old age of ninety-nine.

Today, the many descendants of James and Mary can look on with pride as the children of Brookline play Little League baseball, or swim in the pool, or pursue their dreams of basketball stardom on the gym floor in the Brookline Memorial Recreation Center building.

They do so with the proud knowledge that had it not been for their family and the land that they had toiled over for so long, these kids would have had nowhere to play. In some small way, the Anderson's have touched the lives of generations of Brookline youngsters who have passed through the many programs offered at the Community Center.

William Anderson lived in the home on Oakridge with Margaret until his passing in 1981. In his later years, William would take his granddaughter Doris and his three great-grandchildren for walks around the park to pick flowers and play. He told them many stories about the family and their life on the farm. He marveled at the progress that was being made and delighted in seeing the smiling faces of the neighborhood children as they played on the land he himself had grown up on as a child.

William and Margaret Anderson with granddaughter
 Doris and their three great-grandchildren.

The Anderson Farm and the Anderson family have blended in with the passing of time. Their story has faded over the years. So many Brookliners are unaware of the heritage and sacrifices they made to further the development of our community.

For those who do remember, the Anderson's will always be one of the pioneering families that helped make Brookline a special place. For those who do not, we hope that this story and the accompanying photos help to educate them on a part of Brookline's past that should never be forgotten.

We send our sincerest thanks to Doris Anderson Morrison and her cousin Ruth Smith for sharing their family's story here with us.

To learn more about the evolution of Brookline Memorial Park, click here.

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More Photos of James and Mary Anderson and Family

Marriage Certificate for James and Mary
 Anderson - 1874.
The Marriage Certificate for James and Mary Anderson dated March 31, 1874.


Emma on the horse to the left with Phillip. Young Mabel on the horse to the right with Sadie and James.

Mary Fischer Anderson with children Sarah
(Sadie), Mabel, Emma and Wallace.
Mary Fischer Anderson with her children Sarah (Sadie), Mabel, Emma and Wallace.

William and Margaret Anderson, shortly after
their marriage in 1926. The turtle is for dinner.
William and Margaret Anderson shortly after their marriage
in 1926. The family obtained most of their food on their
property, including deer, rabbits ... and turtles.

Emma Anderson standing in the family orchard.    Emma and Adolph Schulze.
Emma Anderson standing in the family orchard (left) and years later with husband Adolph Schulze.

Emma and Adolph Schulze at 1331 Breining Street.
Emma and Adolph Schulze standing on the porch at 1331 Breining Street, next to the entrance to the farm.
They were in a perfect position to watch the evolution of their family's land
into the recreational park of today. Emma passed away in 1977.

* Written by Clint Burton, September 14, 2004. Photos provided by Doris Anderson Morrison *

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