Ancestors: House-by-house search retraces an ancestor

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Joanne Baker knew only a few things about her great-grandfather, Timothy D. Casey. He was a prominent businessman in Downtown Pittsburgh, a wholesale liquor merchant who lived across the river in Allegheny City, now the North Side.

"His son James married my grandmother, who divorced him. I don't know what became of him, either," said Mrs. Baker, who is 85 and lives in Lower Burrell. "For a long time, my husband said, you could see a Casey and Co. sign painted on the side of a building near 10th Street."

After the divorce, there was less and less contact between the families. She wants to know more about these men who never were part of her life, and one other thing about her grandparents: "Did they live with the older people [his parents] or have their own place?"

On the Historic Pittsburgh Web site (, we found a profile and caricature of Timothy Casey in Arthur Burgoyne's 1892 book, "All Sorts of Pittsburghers."

"Mr. Casey is a man of agreeable social qualities; and while thoroughly domestic in his habits, is loyal to his club (the Columbus), and frequently takes a hand in politics on the Democratic side," Mr. Burgoyne writes. "He is the father of a happy family; resides in a handsome mansion in Allegheny, and stands high among the 'solid men' of that city."

An Irish immigrant, Mr. Casey was born in Charleville, County Cork, in 1840 and 10 years later came to Westmoreland County with his parents, David and Mary Casey. In 1865, he left the family farm near Murrysville and moved to Pittsburgh to study at Iron City College (now Duff's Business Institute). Sometime in the 1860s, he married Margaret J. O'Hanlon.

A satirical verse accompanying the profile indicates that after graduation, he headed to northwest Pennsylvania:

"When manhood he reached to Venango he went,

In the hope that a fortune in oil he'd be striking.

But a year found him back again, solely intent

On the grocery trade, which was more to his liking."

With the profits, he was able to form a partnership in 1869 with Robert Woods in the wholesale liquor business, which eventually became T.D. Casey & Co. It was located at 971 Liberty Ave., at the corner of 10th Street.

"Oh, no wonder you could see the sign," Mrs. Baker said.

But where was the Caseys' home in Allegheny? Does it still stand?

City directories show Mr. Casey and his family living at 384 Beaver Ave., a brick duplex, as early as 1873. It no longer exists, but in 1890 or '91, the Caseys moved to the "handsome mansion," a large, high-style, red-brick Italianate duplex at 186 (now 1100) Sheffield St. in Manchester. The Caseys rented half of it from owner Benjamin Mevey for about eight years.

In or around 1895, T.D. Casey & Co. passed to a new owner, Daniel Kelly. In the 1902 directory, Timothy is listed as running a tavern at 519 Lacock St.

By 1900, the Caseys had moved to 436 Lincoln Ave. in the East End, a smaller, mansard-roofed house that also still stands, but renovated.

James Casey, oldest of the 11 Casey children with his twin sister Mary, is listed as a clerk in several city directories. The 1910 census, found on, gives his occupation as hotel clerk.

By 1900, it appears, he had married Isabelle Lohr of Ligonier, who lived with James and his family at 436 Lincoln. Although she is listed as a daughter of Timothy and Margaret, earlier censuses indicate the Caseys never had a child named Isabelle. She and James met at Idlewild Park, Mrs. Baker said. Their children, Isabelle and Edmund, were born in 1904 and 1905. They were not enough to hold the marriage together.

"Casey disappeared. We always heard he walked out on her and moved to Louisiana or somewhere in the South. The story was she nagged him until he left," said Mrs. Baker, recalling her grandmother as a formidable, "straitlaced" woman and a "respectable and talented" seamstress. She returned to Ligonier with her children and married her second husband, Michael Clohessy, in 1910.

James was living with his four siblings and three nephews at 6808 Kelly St. that year. He died in 1915 in New Orleans, circumstances unknown.

"So that was true," Mrs. Baker said.

Timothy Casey was inspector of prisons for Western Pennsylvania under Gov. Robert Pattison and due to his influence the first Catholic Mass was celebrated in penitentiaries, according to John Boucher's 1908 book, "A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and her People." In 1882, Mr. Casey was one of the incorporators of Mercy Hospital. He died in 1903.

"The only thing Mother had of her dad's was a button off of his uniform," Mrs. Baker said. "He was in the Spanish-American War. I gave it to my son, but I believe he gave it to Edmund Jr.," his cousin.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. You told me a lot."

Twenty years ago, the Caseys would not have recognized their former Sheffield Street home, a dilapidated wreck missing its windows and covered in ivy. The exterior since has been handsomely restored, and the interior renovated into apartments.

Ancestors is an occasional column that chronicles Pittsburgh families. If you would like the Post-Gazette to help research your family history, e-mail or call 412-263-1590.


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