Old Section D, Lot 35

Anne Ashley, photo from private family collection, published in _Anne Ashley United Method
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The following brief history of Anne Ashley was obtained from the 175th Anniversary booklet, "Anne Ashley United Methodist Church, 1830-2005," which was published and printed by the Anne Ashley United Methodist Church. The edition also included an account of Anne's life written by her grandson, Alexander McClure Ashley, and the reproduction of "Homestead Methodism," written in 1933 by Rev. Guy Wallace Smeltzer, a Pastor of Anne Ashley from 1929 - 1934. A copy of the book can be found at the Carnegie Library of Homestead. The following biography was created using these references.

The Ashley family Bible, a cherished family heirloom that has spanned generations since the early 1800's, provided Alexander Ashley a wealth of information about his grandmother, Anne, and the origins of his family. Anne was a daughter of Archibald and Jane McDowell, and sister to Sarah (b. 22 Jul 1791) and Hannah (b. 23 Jul 1794). Sarah was wedded to Charles Ashley (b. 10 Sep 1786), a son of Thomas and Rebekah Ashley, on 26 Oct 1815 and resided in Pittsburgh where he worked as a tailor at Sixth and Grant Streets. Together, they had four children, including James (11 Jan 1817 - 1819), Jane (4 Nov 1818 - 1859), Thomas Kennerly (8 Sep 1820 – 15 Feb 1866), and William McLin (7 Feb 1823 – 15 May 1840). Sarah tragically died on 22 Dec 1823, leaving Charles with 3 young children. Anne immediately moved to Pittsburgh to help raise her sister's children, and ultimately became Charles's second wife in September of 1827. Together with Charles, Anne had four children, including Sarah Anne (5 Apr 1828 – 1 Nov 1830), Charles Wesley (28 Aug 1829 – 7 Nov 1830), Alexander (31 May 1831 - 1901), and Rebeckah (6 Jan 1833 – 4 Jun 1859). Charles, Anne's husband, died on 26 Dec 1832, one week prior to Rebeckah's birth. 

Charles and Anne were exceedingly poor; following his death, Anne was forced to move her family into the residence of her sister, Hannah, who lived in an area of Munhall called “the Neck,” due to its location between two ravines. It was here that Anne posthumously cultivated her legacy.

The local Methodist district is said to have originated in the Homeville residence of James and Nancy Whitaker, where Dr. Matthew Stevenson, a lay preacher and Nancy’s brother-in-law in town on a visit, held services for a small group of nine people, one of which was Anne, in May of 1830. Within two years, a Whitaker Society was established, and a Board of Trustees was created to oversee the construction of a new, one-room red brick church. Land and supplies were donated by members of the Aaron Whitaker, Sr., and Joseph, Sr., and Catherine West families. Initially the church was known as the “Whitaker Church” but became colloquially known as the “Neck Church” due to its location. Upon its dedication in 1833, the formal name used in the stained-glass window read the “Franklin Church.” It was located around 50 yards southeast of the present structure on 22nd Avenue.

Anne’s life heavily revolved around her faith. Her grandsons recount of her life makes mention that the McDowell family, traditionally Presbyterian in faith, held a deep resentment for Anne who had converted to Methodism following her marriage to Charles. She was documented as an original member of the Franklin congregation, and her son, Alexander, remembered her as being an extremely devout woman of saintliness who instilled her religious qualities and beliefs into her children, and subsequently, their children. Because of her “many fine Christian values,” when a new Methodist Church was being built on the property in 1887, Alexander donated $400.00 towards the $4,000.00 construction costs in her name, and was honored to have the new Church named as a memorial to her. The Anne Ashley Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated on 13 Nov 1887. The Franklin Church was torn down the following year.

Upon her death at the age of 60 on 13 Oct 1854, Anne was buried in the old Franklin graveyard, along with her daughter, Rebeckah, and her step-son, Thomas Kennerly. When the Homestead Cemetery was incorporated, their bodies were relocated to their current location in the family lot in Old Section D, Lots 35 and 36.

She was also joined by her son, Alexander Ashley (d. 12 Apr 1901) and his wife, Elizabeth A. (Cox) Ashley (d. 8 Oct 1923) whom he married on 25 Nov 1963; her grandsons and sons of Alexander Ashley, Charles W. Ashley (d. 13 Nov 1913) and his wife whom he married on 8 Sep 1892, Anna (Powell) Ashley (d. 9 Feb 1921), and Alexander McClure Ashley (d. 11 Jul 1957) and his wife whom he married on 21 Nov 1900, Harriet Estelle (Powell) Ashley (d. 22 Dec 1962). The family members buried directly in Homestead were all handled through the Gillen & Coulter Funeral Home. 

 

Information and photos gathered from:

  • Anne Ashley United Methodist Church, 1830-2005: "Reaching Others with the Love of Christ.". Anne Ashley United Methodist Church, 2005.

  • Smeltzer, Wallace Guy. "Anne Ashley, July 23 1794 -- October 13 1854: A Sketch of Her life; her family; and, her character." 1934.

  • Smeltzer, Wallace Guy. Homestead Methodism (1830-1933): The History of Methodism in Mifflin Township, Allegheny County, Pa.: Being the Story of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in That Township, Variously Named the Whitaker Church, the Franklin Church, "the Neck" Church, and the Anne Ashley Memorial Church, Located at Twenty-Second Street, Munhall, Pa., in Its Background, Origin, and Work through the Century: Along with the Expansion of Methodism in the Community from This Original Parent Society ; the Coming of Other Religious Communions to the Vicinity ; and an Account of the Settlement, and the Industrial and Social Development of the Homestead District. D. K. Murdoch Company, 1933.

Angeline “Annie” Stevens was born on 11 November 1861 in the rural Athens Township, Athens County, Ohio, to parents, Aquilla "Quill" and Elizabeth G. (Brackston/Braxton) Stevens, both born in the former slave states of Maryland and Virginia, respectively. According to the 1870 and 1880 census, their family was the only non-white residence within the Township, and the Stevens family endured extreme poverty and discrimination. Her father worked on the railroad as a stonecutter, and her mother raised Anna along with her ten siblings. Her father is listed as being unable to read or write.

 

During her childhood, black children were permitted to attend Ohio public schools with white children, which opened up many opportunities for Annie in here adolescent years. She was reported to be the first black graduate of Athens High School and was noted in the 06 June 1879 edition of the Athens Messenger article “High School Commencement,” as orating a speech titled "the Visible and Invisible" to the crowd. Her speech elaborated on the prevalent impact that invisible influences have on a life in comparison to visible influences. The newspaper was complimentary of the speech, stating, "the originality of thought exhibited in (Anna’s) composition gives basis for large expectation of the literary efforts of her maturer years. (She) is the first colored graduate of Athens High School and deserves great credit for her achievement and for having set an example to her race of what may be attained by intelligent and persistent effort..."

 

At the time of the 1880 census, Annie was listed as a schoolteacher, following her graduation from Athens College. Soon afterwards, she met Captain Cumberland "C.W." Posey, a Pittsburgh-based steamboat engineer and budding entrepreneur. They were married in Athens on 09 May 1883, and moved to Homestead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania shortly after their union. Together, they had three children, including Beatrice (Posey) Baker, Seward Hayes "See" Posey, a Negro League executive and Homestead Grays booking agent, and Cumberland Willis "Cum" Posey, Jr., the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, who are also buried in the Homestead Cemetery.

 

Her life in Homestead centered around social and charitable work. She was a member of the Ladies' Federation of Clubs, Old Ladies Home, the Aurora Club of Pittsburgh, and the Warren Methodist Episcopal Church. According to the PA Negro Business Directory, she took "an active interest in all movements tending to the advancement of the race." It also notes that she was a talented and multi-faceted artist; she decorated her home, along with many other wealthy estates, with many of her hand painted china, oil paintings, watercolor sketches, fine silk and lace work pieces. She would go on to hold yearly art classes for over a decade and acted as Superintendent of the Art Department of the National Association of Colored Women's Club.

Annie was 56 when she died on 20 August 1917 in the West Penn Hospital of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. She had lived in Homestead for 35 years. She was survived by her husband, C. W. Posey, Sr.; children, Beatrice (Evan) Baker, Seward Posey, and Cumberland Posey, Jr.; four grandchildren; mother, Elizabeth Stevens; siblings, Emmett Stevens, Lucetta (J. L.) Tate, Herman Stevens, Olive (Robert) Bell, Fredrick Stevens, and Samuel Stevens. Her funeral services, conducted by Rev. Dr. C. Y. Trigg, were held in the Warren M. E. Church on Wednesday, August 22, 1917.

Information and photos gathered from:

  • "High School Commencement," Athens Messenger, Athens, Ohio. 06 June 1879, p. ?

  • CW and Anna Posey, 1890s. Photos courtesy of the 1910 Pennsylvania Negro Business Directory.

  • "Mrs. Annie S. Posey," the Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 21 Aug 1917, p. 8.

  • "Mrs. C. W. Posey Dead," the New York Age, New York, New York. 23 Aug 1917, p. 2.

  • Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993. Year Range: 1880 - 1892.

  • Year: 1870; Census Place: Athens, Athens, Ohio; Roll: M593_1171; Page: 65A.

  • Year: 1880; Census Place: Athens, Athens, Ohio; Roll: 992; Page: 41D; Enumeration District: 003.

  • Year: 1900; Census Place: Homestead Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1368; Page: 2; Enumeration District: 0402; FHL microfilm: 1241368