J. (Jacob) Bowman Sweitzer was born on Independence Day, 1821, in Brownsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, along the Monongahela River. Sweitzer, of Swiss descent, was a son of Henry Sweitzer, a manufacturer and Ann Elliott Bowman Sweitzer.
After graduating from Jefferson College in Canonsburg and studying law with a Washington County attorney, J. Bowman Sweitzer became an attorney in 1845. In 1846, Sweitzer moved to Pittsburgh, living at 115 Third Avenue. Sweitzer was appointed United States Attorney for Western Pennsylvania by 1850.
J. Bowman Sweitzer, 30, married Mary Holmes Stevenson, 24, on June 15, 1852. Mary Holmes Stevenson was a daughter of Dr. Henry Stevenson of 99 Fourth Avenue in Pittsburgh, and a granddaughter of early Pittsburgh residents Dr. George Stevenson and John Darragh. The Sweitzers began living at 101 Fourth Avenue. The Sweitzer and Stevenson homes were located on the northern side of Fourth Avenue, between Wood and Smithfield Streets, on or close to the present location of the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania at 337 Fourth Avenue.
The 1860 manuscript census enumerated J. Bowman and Mary Sweitzer, their two children, and three servants in
their Fourth Avenue home. The census reported that J. Bowman Sweitzer, 38, was an attorney at law who owned real estate valued at $2,000 and had a personal estate of $1,000. Mary Sweitzer had no occupation. The couple had two children: Annie B., four, and Henry S., two.
The Sweitzers’ servants in 1860 were Ann Sauls, 16, Mary Ward, 20, and Hannah Dougan, 25, all born in Ireland.
In 1861, J. Bowman Sweitzer left his position as United States Attorney and entered the Union Army. Sweitzer served with distinction in the Civil War through 1864, and his activities were described extensively an entry in Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania, accompanying this report.
J. Bowman Sweitzer returned to his family in Pittsburgh in 1864, at age 43. Sweitzer and his wife Mary, still living at 101 Fourth Avenue, had two additional children after Sweitzer’s return from the battlefield. Sweitzer was retired until 1869, when he was appointed Supervisor of Internal Revenue by the federal government.
The 1870 manuscript census shows that the Sweitzers’ children were Annie, 13, Henry, 11, both attending school, and J. Bowman Jr., four, and O’Hara Denny, two. The census enumerated no servants living with the Sweitzer family.
The 1870 manuscript census shows that J. Bowman Sweitzer owned real estate worth $20,000 and had a personal estate of $10,000.
J. Bowman Sweitzer was appointed Prothonotary of the Supreme Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in November 1873.
The Sweitzer family lived at 101 Fourth Avenue until 1884, when J. Bowman Sweitzer bought 81 Beech Avenue.
In the late 1880’s, J. Bowman Sweitzer Jr. became an attorney and began working as a clerk in the office of the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Harry S. Sweitzer became a partner in Dean & Sweitzer, insurance agents, located at 401 Wood Street in Pittsburgh. Sweitzer’s partner was George W. Dean of 20 Arch Street, in what is now the Allegheny Center Mall area.
J. Bowman Sweitzer died at home on November 9, 1888. Sweitzer’s death was attributed to blood poisoning caused
by kidney disease. The Pittsburg Press carried his obituary on its front page.
The 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on residents of 842 Beech Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a fire following its completion.
The 1900 manuscript census does not provide information on residents of 842 Beech Avenue, suggesting that the house was temporarily vacant or skipped by the census taker.
Mary Sweitzer lived at 842 Beech Avenue through 1910, when the census enumerated Mary Sweitzer and her son Harry S. Sweitzer, an insurance salesman, living at 842 Beech Avenue with no other family members or servants. Mary Sweitzer apparently lived outside the Pittsburgh area between 1911 and her death in 1912.
After the death of Harry S. Sweitzer in about 1911, the last member of the Sweitzer family to live at 842 Beech Avenue was O’Hara Denny Sweitzer, who was listed as living in the house in 1912.
The children of J. Bowman and Mary Sweitzer maintained 842 Beech Avenue as rental property between 1913 and 1925, when they sold the house.