Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fifth Generation Poweltonians

In an earlier post (Of Church and Family), I discussed the long ties between the Andrews and Alexander families and the Northminster Presbyterian Church.  At the end of that piece, I noted that Julian and Virginia Alexanders' two children (Julian, Jr. and Louisa) were the great-grandchildren of four Poweltonians: Alexander and Amelia Andrews and Horace and Mary Hill.  I have recently discovered that that is only half of the story.

Seven of Julian and Louisa Alexanders' eight great-grandparents lived in Powelton.  The eighth died in 1858 before people began to move into the neighborhood.  In addition, one of their great-great-grandmothers also lived here.

 Ancestors of Julian and Louisa Alexander
with Home Addresses in Powelton
(click to enlarge)

As I described previously, Julian and Louisa's great-grandparents, Alexander and Amelia Andrews, were among the earliest residents of Powelton.  They purchased 3507 Baring St. in December, 1859.  Alexander had recently begun trading grain and became quite successful.  However, they bought the house with money from a trust set up for Amelia and her siblings when their parents died quite young.  Amelia died in 1873 at age 50.  Alexander sold 3507 in 1882 and died five years later at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, E. P. Alexander.

Julian and Louisa's paternal grandparents, Euretta Andrews and Edward P. Alexander, married in 1874 and moved into a new home at 306 N. 35th St.  Edward and his siblings, Charles, Josephine, and Henry moved to Philadelphia from New Hampshire in the 1860s.  In 1867, they founded Alexander Brothers, manufacturers of industrial leather belts.  The brothers purchased a new home at 3626 Baring St. in 1869. Their father, Lemuel Alexander (another great-grandfather of Julian and Louisa), joined them sometime in the 1870s.  He died in 1883.  Euretta and Edward lived at 306 for 48 years before selling it in 1922.  Euretta died the next year and E. P. died in 1927.

Euretta and Edward's youngest child, Julian, married Virginia Hill in 1914.  Virginia (Julian, Jr. and Louisa's mother) was the granddaughter of Horace and Mary Wiggins Hill.  Like the Alexander family, Horace Hill's family was from New Hampshire and Maine.  He was born in Pennsylvania, but his parents and his older siblings were born in New England.  In 1860, Horace and Mary were living at 3504 Hamilton St. with their newborn son, Horace G. Hill.  About 1861, they moved to 3405 Hamilton St.  Mary's mother (Julian and Louisa great-great-grandmother), Elizabeth Wiggins, lived with them from before 1870 until her death in 1886.  In 1894, Horace Hill retired as assistant cashier for the Philadelphia National Bank where he had worked for 39 years.  The next month, the couple sailed for Europe where they were to spend the next two years traveling.  On their return, they moved out to Belmont Ave.

The Hill's son, Horace G. Hill, was a 1882 graduate of Jefferson Medical College.  In 1886, he married Maria L. Bennett.  Her parents, Joseph S. Bennett and Virginia Grier (or Greer) Bennett, moved their family to 3519 Hamilton St. in 1870.  Joseph was a wholesale druggist but his changing occupation suggests he might have suffered financial setbacks.  In 1880, they were living with Virginia's cousins at 3410 Race St.  When Horace and Maria were married in 1886, they moved to 3416 Baring St. and Joseph and Virginia Bennett moved in with them.  Joseph died in 1892.  Both Horace G. Hill and his mother-in-law, Virginia Bennett, died in 1901.  Maria Hill apparently had to make adjustments for the loss of her husband's income.  She first moved with her three children to the smaller 3419 Hamilton St. and about ten years later, she downsized again moving to 409 N. 36th St.

The Hill family was living on 36th St. in 1914 when Virginia Hill and Julian Alexander were married.  However, Virginia and Julian grew up just around the corner from each other.  Virginia Hill's father died just before her 14th birthday.  After their wedding, Virginia and Julian moved to 3417 Race St.  where Julian, Jr. and Louisa were born.  Virginia's mother, Louisa Hill, lived with them.  Julian worked in the family business.  Tragically Julian, Sr. died in the 1930s when he was only in his 40s.
Julian and Louisa Alexander lived on Race St. with their mother into the 1940s, eighty years after their ancestors first arrived here.  (Virginia lived there until her death in 1949.)  They grew up about two blocks from where their parents were raised.  When they walked up 35th St. on their way to church on Sundays, they walked past the home that their Alexander grandparents built.  The church was right across Baring St. from the house their Alexander great-grandparents built in 1859.  All of their great-grandparents were raised within four blocks of the house on Race St..  This geographic clustering of multiple generations was seen in farming communities in the early twentieth century and it might have happened in some other urban areas, but five generations in one small urban neighborhood could not have been common.  The clustering of generations in this family and a few other extended families (for example, the McIvain and Sellers families) helped define Powelton as a distinct neighborhood and played an important role in establishing the sense of community that continues to this day.


  1. Hi Prof. Ewbank - I know this post is 5 years old, but I'm just reading it now. My mother, Louisa Hill Alexander, was the youngest of your 3417 Race St. occupants. What fun to see you trace the geographical history of our family back 4 generations. My mother has since passed away, but I have forwarded your post to my uncle, Julian Alexander, Jr. who will turn 101 in January. Best regards, Richard Emmet

    1. Thanks so much for your message and for putting me in touch with your cousin and your uncle. Messages from former Powelton residents and their descendants are a great treat.

  2. Indeed - five years late, I have to agree with my cousin Richard: this is great fun. My father, Julian Alexander, Jr. is, as Richard said, nearly 101 years old. He's very tech savvy though, so perhaps we'll get him to add a comment . . . thank you for this work. it's a treat. Grace and peace, Sam Alexander

  3. Professor Ewbank - I happen to have a beautiful homemade picture book (black and white) of the inside of 3417 Race St. It was done by my Aunt Euretta Simons (actually my first cousin once removed), who was a professional photographer and lived there with my grandmother, Virginia Hill Alexander at 3417 Race St. for decades. If you are interested I'd be glad to scan it and e-mail it to you. Just let me know -

  4. At the request of my father, Julian Alexander, Jr. who was up to writing this, but not quite up to posting it at 101 years of age, I am posting the following: "As prompted by my son Sam, here is my response to your wonderful description of my family’s life in Powelton Village. As for me, I lived at 3417 Race Street from the day I was born on January 2, 1917, till the day I was married, 25 years later. Then my wife Betty (who had grown up in that far-away country, New Jersey) and I continued to live in an apartment on Powelton Avenue for the next four years before finally moving to the suburbs. During that whole time we really didn't need a car, although we had one. Even as a child I could walk back-and-forth to my relatives’ homes, and to our church, without any sense of fear either on my part or on my parents’ part. We were all just "at home". Cheers, Julian Alexander Jr.
    FYI: In the spirit of historical accuracy I thought I could offer a couple of date corrections for the family tree you have so graciously put together. I was born on January 2, 1917, not September. My mother, Virginia Hill Alexander died on June 12, 1974, and my father, Julian Alexander died 1/20/33.