The Carson Family of Philadelphia & Pittsburgh
“Who Was Carson Street Named After?”
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203
A Series of South Side History
By Ed Vidunas and
June 20, 2020


This paper was created as a set of notes in the discovery of the name of the person who Carson Street was named after. It is being made public so others can get information on this and other information pertaining to South Side and Pittsburgh in general. It is said repeatedly that Carson Street was named after a sea captain from Philadelphia who was a friend of Nathaniel Bedford. That may be true but evidence shows it is more likely to be false. It should be noted that the same given names were used by generation after generation and the same first name twice within the same family. This really made researching the families “interesting”.

Note: Names in parentheses, (Baker), are maiden names of the women.

The Carson Family from Ireland
Notes on Four Family Members who left Ireland for America

Three brothers, William, Joseph and Andrew, along with their sister, Mary arrived in Philadelphia from County Antrim, Ireland (now in Northern Ireland). This was believed to be about 1750 or prior to the War of Independence. William may have been married in Ireland but his brothers were married in the colonies. In as much as there are a number of Carson families in Ireland this line of Carson has direct ties to Pittsburgh and through business and professional endeavors would have known Nathaniel Bedford.

Some documents have indicated that the Carson family originated from Scotland. I do not think that is true as several documents that have greater authenticity have said Ireland.

William was born on March 25, 1728. He became an innkeeper and owner of the Harp & Crown in Philadelphia at the corner of Third Street and Elbow Lane. He was married about 1751 to Mary Hamilton. They had six children. Mary was born in 1729 and died on April 29, 1802.
Mary returned to Scotland after William’s death.
Children: (6) Joseph, James, William, John, Dr., Elizabeth, Mary.
Joseph, William and Mary were believed to have never married.
Notes on the children of William (1728) and Mary Carson continue below.

Sub-Note on the Harp & Crown
William Carson became proprietor of the Harp & Crown after he came to America. He had it prior to and during the War of Independence during which he called it the Harp & Eagle. Captain Barnabas McShane (b. 1747 – d. 1803) had the “Sign of the Harp & Crown” in May of 1787. Heiskell & Nibble renamed it City Hotel when they replaced it with a new building. It opened in 1807 but was town down before the Civil War.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1922
Pennsylvania Magazine identifies William’s wife as Mary Hamilton and I accept that.

Joseph, born in 1738, was a merchant in Philadelphia and ten years younger than William.
Joseph was born in 1738. He married Correy.
No additional information follows.

Andrew Carson was born in Ireland before 1739. After arriving in Philadelphia, he married Jane Hall on March 1, 1769 and moved to Northumberland County.
No additional information follows.

Mary Carson seems to have no history.
No additional information follows.

The Children of William & Mary (Hamilton) Carson
Notes on Six Children of William (1728) and Mary Carson

Joseph Carson
Married Elizabeth (Lawrence) (b. 1778 – d. September 1827)
Joseph had one son, Joseph, who became a doctor. Born April 19, 1808.

Dr. Joseph Carson (1808)
He served on the ship Georgiana for a year’s voyage to the East Indies having returned in 1832.
He first married Mary Goddard in 1841 but they did not have children.
His second marriage in 1848 to Mary Hollingsworth resulted in four children:
Joseph, Hampton Lawrence (below), George Correy, and Henry.

Hampton Lawrence (b. February 21, 1852 – d. July 18, 1929) was Attorney General of Pennsylvania from January 21, 1903 to January 16, 1907. He married Anna Lea Baker in 1880 having two sons and two daughters.
Anna Lea (Barker) Carson 1854, below

James Carson
Became a lawyer and lived with his sister Mary O’Hara in Pittsburgh.

Dr. John Carson (b. November 12, 1752 – d. October 26, 1794) eldest son
John was born in Philadelphia but went to Edinburgh to study medicine.
He married Agnes Hunter in Edinburgh about 1775 and moved to Philadelphia sometimes after.
It was never explained in Ann (Baker) Carson’s memoirs why but the Carson family were not happy with this marriage.
Agnes Hunter (b. 1755 Scotland – d. 1826 Redhouse, Linlithgoshire, Scotland)
Children (10):
John, Jacobina, Mary, Christian Febiger, Sarah Febiger were believed to have been married.

William (X), James, Peter, Joseph, Elizabeth Febiger never married.

Jacobina (b. December 10, 1778). Agnes move back to Edinburgh when her husband died. Jacobina went alone. In Edinburgh she married Robert Forsyth on July 12, 1803. They had children.

William, son of Dr. John Carson, had a son, John, who was Captain John Carson and Ann Baker’s husband. Could this be the sea captain that Carson Street was named after.

Mary Carson (April 14, 1782) married James O’Hara Jr.; no children
Mary became the wife, first of her cousin, James O'Hara Jr., by whom she had no children.
Second marriage (in Scotland) to James L'Amy, of Edinburgh, by whom she had children.

Children of Dr. John & Agnes (Hunter) Carson, below.

Willian Carson
There is something on each of the children of William and Mary except William. For all the books and papers that I have seen there is nothing on William.

Elizabeth Carson Febiger, second born, (b. February 19, 1754 – d. January 5, 1817)
Married Col. Christian Febiger August 14, 1777. No children. Christian Febiger, who was born in Denmark became Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Mary Carson O’Hara, third born, (February 19, 1761 – d. April 8, 1834)
Married James O’Hara in 1783
List of Children (6)
William Carson O’Hara married his cousin Mary Carson, no children.

James O’Hara married Elizabeth Neville, no children.

Charles O’Hara died young.

Richard Butler O’Hara married Mary Fitzsimnons,
That marriage led to the Darlington and McCullough families.

Elizabeth Febiger O’Hara, named after her aunt, married Harmer Denny on November 25, 1817, son of Ebenezer Denny, first mayor of Pittsburgh.

Mary Carson O’Hara married William Croghan Jr. of Louisville, Kentucky.
Mary’s brother, James, moved to Pittsburgh. But what of Elizabeth Neville?

Sub-Note on William Croghan Jr. and Mary Croghan Schenley
(b. 1794 January 2, Louisville KY – d. 1850 September, Pittsburgh, PA)
William Croghan’s father, William (b. 1752 Dublin, Ireland) married to Lucy Clark (b. 1765) who was the sister of William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
Father of Mary (Croghan) Schenley

Mary Croghan Schenley (b. 1826, Louisville KY – d. 1903 November 5, London)
Married Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley (d. 1878) in 1842.
They had 7 children.
Croghan & Clark Families

Fun Fact
The grandmother of Pittsburgh’s Mary Schenley was Lucy Clark whose father was William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Mary Carson (1761) married James O’Hara (1752 – 1819); married in 1783
Her daughter, Mary Carson married William Croghan Jr.
Mary Carson Croghan had a daughter Mary Elizabeth who married Edward W. H. Schenley.
Mary Elizabeth Croghan Schenley (April 27, 1826 Louisville, Ky – November 5, 1903 London)
William Croghan Sr. lived at Picnic and died on September 22, 1850.
His wife Mary died October 25, 1827.

James O’Hara’s wife, Mary, adopted Mary Carson who was the sister to Captain Carson according to Ann Carson and Clark. The adopted Mary married James O’Hara’s son, William. This puts two daughters named Mary on the family. William died forty-eight hours after the marriage. Adopted Mary went to Edinburgh and married a lawyer named Lama.

Sub-Note on James O’Hara
James O’Hara (b. 1752 – d. 1819) was a captain when he was in Philadelphia when he married Mary. It was not until after that arrived in Pittsburgh that in 1792 or 1793, he was promoted Inspector-General of the Army. He resigned that position in May 1796. Nathaniel Bedford was to have arrived in 1770 so, with respect to the naming of Carson Street, Bedford could not have known a Carson until after the Carson’s moved to Pittsburgh. O’Hara came to Philadelphia in 1772.

Children of Dr. John & Agnes (Hunter) Carson

Capt. Carson was in this line and his sister Mary was adopted by Mary O’Hara.
Capt. Carson’s sister Mary who was adopted married William O’Hara.
Married Agnes Hunter in Edinburgh about 1775, they moved to Philadelphia.
Agnes Hunter (b. 1755 – d. 1826)
Children (10):
Married children of Dr. Joseph and Agnes Carson
John. See Sub-Note, below. This was the Captain
Jacobina (b. December 10, 1778)
Mary Carson (April 14, 1782) See Sub-Note, below.
Christian, adopted by Col. Christian Febiger, his uncle.
Sarah Febiger

Unmarried children of Dr. Joseph and Agnes Carson
Elizabeth married Col. Christian Febiger

Sub-Note on John Carson
Eldest son of John and Agnus.
Born in Philadelphia on July 10, 1777 (Bedford was in Pittsburgh at this time)
Married Ann Lea Baker on June 16, 1801
Died on January 28, 1816 after being shot and killed by Richard Smith in a duel.
Ann was never in love with John and only married him upon pressure of her father who was also a sea captain. Both her father and John were drunk a good deal of time. Was in love with Richard. John left for India and was gone a long time. Thinking he may have died Ann married Richard but this never went through the courts making her marriage to Richard bigamy. John returns and surprises Ann, who I snow living with Richard. Sparks fly. See more of this below under
Anna Lea (Barker) Carson 1854.

Mary Carson (17861) was Captain John Carson’s sister who married James O’Hara.
Mary Carson O’Hara’s father was the original William who came from Irelnd.
Mary & James O’Hara were married in Philadelphia before moving to Pittsburgh in 1792.
Mary adopted Mary (1782) after Dr. John Carson’s death in 1794.

John was adopted by William Crammond, a merchant
John graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1791, was commissioned master in the US. Navy, November 20, 1798, and Lieutenant June 13, 1799.

Sub-Note on Mary Carson (b. 1782)

The Baker-Carson Marriages

This caused me some confusion and took some time to see that I wasn’t mistaken but it is very odd that two members of a family, both doctors, married women having practically the same name.
Ann Lea Baker married Captain John Carson, son of Dr. John Carson.
Anna Lea Baker married lawyer Hampton Lawrence Carson, son of Dr. Joseph Carson.

Ann Lea (Baker) Carson and Captain John Carson
Ann’s father was in command of the Navy ship Delaware and John Carson was second lieutenant. Ann was fourteen at the time. She married Carson in June and was two months away of turning 16. Anne’s first son was John.
John Carson was a sea captain.

Ann had two sisters; Sarah, younger than Ann and May, younger than Ann. Memoirs has Eliza the eldest.
Mary was married to Thomas Abbott.
Eliza was married to John Hutton.

Ann married John Carson in June 1801, Richard Smith afterwards
She had three sons:
John Carson (b. 1802) Worked in a counting house
William Carson (b. 1805) Cabinet maker
Joseph Carson (b. 1808) Printer

Ann Lea Baker Carson Smith (1785 – d. 1824 in prison)

In Ann (Baker) Carson’s “Memoirs” she uses her second marriage name Smyrh.
The memoirs have a series of letters between Ann and a Miss Mary W.
Page xiii: She says Christian Febiger and Captain Carson are brothers.

Page 89, Second Edition: William Carson, a barber, was grandfather of Captain Carson. William’s son who became a doctor was Captain John Carson’s father. William’s son James was a lawyer. He was living in Pittsburgh with his sister, Mary.

Anna Lea (Barker) Carson 1854
Anna Lea 1854 is not the Ann Lea 1785 of whom we are interested in.
Hampton Lawrence Carson (b. February 21, 1852 Philadelphia – d. July 18, 1929 Bryn Mawr)
Carson's father was Dr. Joseph Carson, professor in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, whose grandfather had emigrated to Philadelphia in the 1740s. Carson's mother, born Mary Hollingsworth.
Married Anna Lea Baker on April 14, 1880. Baker’s parents were John R. & Anna Lea Baker.
They had children: Joseph, Hope, John B., and Anna Hampton.

“Ann Baker's father was an alcoholic sailor who could not support his family of seven children and eliminated one hungry face at the family dinner table by forcing her at fifteen to marry an ill-tempered, alcoholic ship captain who rarely contributed financially whether he was on a voyage to India or back in Philadelphia.”

John was lost at sea and after some time Ann presumed him to be dead. She then married Lieutenant Richard Smith in Philadelphia, only to have Carson reappear about 1815. The men at sometime within a year fought and Smith shot John Carson who dies a few days after. Smith and Ann Carson were
jailed as an accessory to murder.

Nathaniel Bedford and Birmingham Borough

Nathaniel Bedford (b. 1755 – d. 1818) was born in Birmingham, England. He became a surgeon and during some of his time in the British Armey was supposedly stationed in Philadelphia and served onboard a British ship. He arrived in Pittsburgh where he resigned his commission about 1770.

Standard History of Pittsburgh (published in 1898) says he never married, which is not true as we know he married Jane Ormsby and after her death in 1790he married his wife’s maid. Most others refer to the maid as the lady-maid or pretty-maid.
Bedford advertised Birmingham lots in the Pittsburgh Gazette on June 27, 1811.
1768 Land along the Monongahela river to Bedford

After Bedford’s death, his second wife, Mary, moved to Bayard’s town, now known as the Strip District.

Ormsby deeded land to Bedford as shown on a
map of 1787. Two tracks of land were identified near South 1st St in the area of the intersection of Carson and Arlington Avenue. Bedford and John Ormsby had strong ties between one another due to their involvement in the church and community.

There is no evidence that Carson Street was named after Captain Christian Carson of Philadelphia. He was, though family, a relative of Mary Carson of Philadelphia who married James O’Hara. There was a Dr. John Carson in Philadelphia who was also a family member but dates do not support his name as being the person. I cannot find very much on Bedford prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh. In all the writings I have seen they all repeat the same line only changing friend with acquaintance. Was the captain an “old” friend or an acquaintance?

Post Clippings on Bedford, Market House, Carson by E. W. Hassler
For Streets: Thomas Denman and William Osborn gave lectures on obstetrics, which Bedford attended. Bedford was given a copper plated diploma dated April 8, 1770, London. The diploma was in the possession of Dr. Robert B. Mowry, whose uncle, Dr. Peter Mowry, was a partner with Bedford since 1786. A story on the Post on June 18, 1883 indicated that Bedford was “well established here in 1784”.
The Post has Jane Ormsby’s death as July 8, 1790.
The Post mentions Bedford’s marriage to Jane’s pretty maid.
The Past notes that Bedford’s will names his executors were: Mrs. Mary Bedford, Dr. Peter Mowry, and James Patterson.

The Post noted that Carson Street was after an old sea captain living in Philadelphia. The writer for the Post said that it was “
Suggested to me that this Captain Carson was the father of the wife of General James O’Hara, whose maiden name was Mary Carson”. Rearraigning that, Mary Carson’s father was Captain Carson. Mary Carson’s husband was James O’Hara. This Mary Carson was born in 1782 to William & Mary (Hamilton) Carson.

Bingham Street was named after Bedford’s sister, Mrs. Martha Bedford of Birmingham, England.
Sixth St after Oliver
Eight St. after Joseph Ormsby
Thirteenth St. after Ormsby.
Sidney Street was named after Miss Sidney Ormsby, the younger sister of Bedford’s wife, Jane.
Jane Street was for Bedford’s wife, Jane.
Sidney married Gregg, (Seventh St.)
Bedford’s Will names a Samuel Bedford but not indication as to who he is. It does mention Nathaniel Bedford Bingham as the son of his sister, Martha.

Samuel Bedford
Jane (Ormsby) Bedford died in childbirth in 1790. Nothing has been documented that her child survived but it is possible as child have survived childbirth when the mother has passed. We can only assume at this time that the child may have survived. Nathaniel Bedford’s Will did mention a Samuel Bedford but no mention as to his relationship or place. Nathaniel “contracted a marriage” with Jane’s “pretty maid” after Jane’s death. Was it to so that the maid could mother the child?

The Naming of Carson Street in Pittsburgh

We know that Carson Street was in existence as early as 1835 as it was shown on the Keyon Map of that year. I have to believe that is was a part of Bedford’s plan in 1811. Know that he would have to had known Carson prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh between 1750 and 1770.

Was Carson Street named after Captain John Carson?
NO! John was in the US Navy whilst Bedford was in the British Army and would have been on a British ship. Most noticeable was that Bedford was in Pittsburgh at the time of Carson’s birth in Philadelphia in 1777.

Was Carson Street named after Dr. Joseph Carson who was married to Elizabeth Lawrence?
Married Elizabeth (Lawrence) born on 1778.
Joseph had one son, Joseph, who became a doctor. Born April 19, 1808.
The answer would be no as he was never a captain. I can’t. find evidence trying him to Bedford other than they were both doctors.

Was Carson Street named after Mary Carson or her father William?
This is the most probable possibility that I have found. According to Hassler, “Suggested to me that this Captain Carson was the father of the wife of General James O’Hara, whose maiden name was Mary Carson” Mary’s father was an innkeeper and never at sea other that coming to America. O’Hara was a captain and this is the captain Hassler may be referring to. Everyone connected with this knew one another and Bedford. Could the person who suggested to hassler got it wrong and meant to say husband? This remains murky and the only thing I can twist out of this is that Bedford may have named after Mary Carson, the grandmother of Mary Schenley.

Why Would Bedford Name a Prominent Street after Carson?
This question cannot be answered until we identify the actual person Bedford named the street after. Most, if not all the streets named after women were from the Ormsby family. Other streets were named after men (or Martha Bingham, Bedford’s sister). Why would he take the name of a women not related to him or Ormsby?