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 mid-19th
century, we see this part of lower St. Clair Township as farmland. The rolling
hills and the few family farms that populated the fertile land 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 crept
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
The Anderson Family story begins in 1849.
James Anderson was born in a log house near present day Oakridge Street, along the
Fairhaven Road. 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, all the
way to Edgebrook Avenue.
Young James and his family grew up working
these fields. On March 31, 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 along the southern part of that same farm bordering the Fairhaven Road.
Later their property sat between Brookline Boulevard and Breining Street. The newlyweds
set about raising a family and working the fields on the new Anderson
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. Sadie is standing
to the left with Wallace. 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.
Charles and young James are standing on the porch. Mayme, George and Albert
are missing from the photo.
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 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.
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 was the true horseman
in the family. Phillip traveled the streets of Brookline selling
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
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
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. 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 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 Paul Farm,
Fleming Farm, Knowlson Farm, Marloff 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
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
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.
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
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.
in 1936, Emma's husband Adolph broke down and purchased a white pick-up
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
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.
Aerial view of the Anderson Farm in
May 1939. The scattered homes in the growing Brookdale subdivision
stand to the right between Brookline Boulevard and Breining Street. Developers
had big plans for this
area. The residents of Brookline also had plans. In the end the land became
a community park.
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. Developers had their eyes on the land to link the
growing Brookdale subdivision on one side of the farm with Brookline Boulevard
and Oakridge Avenue on the other. Purchase of the farm was the key to the
continued investment in Brookdale.
The Community Center Association of
Brookline, a local group of East Brookliners looking for land to develop into
a park, also had their hopes riding on purchase of the farm. The family received
a generous offer from the development company.
Sadie handled the sale of the property,
and in May 1947 decided to accept a lesser offer of $20,000 from the Community
Center Association. The money was raised through donations from throughout the
neighborhood. The unexpected decision spoiled the plans of the Brookdale developers, but ensured that the kids of Brookline would have a recreation
Prior to the sale, the individual members
of the Anderson family had dispersed throughout the Overbrook, Brookline and
Bethel areas. They came together daily to work their fields. After the sale,
only Wallace, the third youngest of the eleven children, continued in the farming
business. He and wife Gertrude purchased a farm in Cochranton,
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 Sadie's homes along 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 continued in the
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.
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
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
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
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.