Coursin Family

Benjamin Biddle Coursin

Benjamin Biddle Coursin

(The material below is reproduced for educational use only under the fair use policy of the copyright law)
-from History of Western Pennsylvania, pg. 633:The history of the Coursin family in Pennsylvania begins with Peter Coursin, who came to Allegheny County from his native state, New Jersey, prior to the year 1800, and there lived to the wonderful age of one hundred and one years. He had sons and daughters: Mrs. Belum Grimes, of West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania; Mrs Catherine Hamilton, whose age near equalled that of her honored father, she reaching the age of ninety-nine years, two months, twelve days; Nancy married Leo Cunningham; Isaac, who was drowned when a young man; Benjamin.

Benjamin Coursin, son of Peter Coursin, became a boat builder, becoming a foreman of the yard of Samuel Walker at Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. When steam vessels made their appearance on the river, he formed a partnership with James Irwin and Richard Stephens, as contractors and builders of such vessels. They conducted a very sucessful business until 1849, when the firm dissolved. Mr. Coursin then moved to McKeesport, locating on the Reynoldton side of the Youghoigheny in what is now the tenth ward of McKeesport. There he erected a saw mill and started a shipyard on his own account. He prospered abundantly and became interested in steamboat lines of the Youghiogheny, Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. After the war he sold his mill and shipyard to Hammitt, Milliken and Chrissinger, and devoted his time to the management of steamboat lines, in which he was interested. He was a director of the Northern Line Packet Company, which ran twelve large steamboats from St. Louis to St. Paul; director of the Pittsburgh, Brownsville and Geneva Packet Company, also owning shares in several large steamboats plying the Ohio and Mississippi as far south as New Orleans. He was an ardent Republican and gave free passage on his steamers for the voters of Elizabeth township, which then included a very large territory causing many of the voters to travel long distances to reach the polling place, Elizabeth. He died in his home in Reynoldton in his eighty-eighth year. He married Christina, daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Rhoads, of an old Peters Creek Family. Children: Isaac, a boat builder and lumberman, later internal revenue collector; Benjamin Biddle, of whom further; Fredrick H., a prominent real estate dealer of McKeesport; John McD; a veteran of Company I, Pennsylvania Reserves, died in 1864; David, died in infancy; James P., deceased, was proprietor of the Hotel Ringgold in McKeesport; Mary E., married B.D. Downey, now living in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

Benjamin Biddle Coursin, second son of Benjamin and Christina (Roads) Coursin, was born in Elizabeth township, Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, February 22, 1837. After preparatory courses in public schools, he completed his studies at Waynesburg College. He became a printer and eventually editor and proprietor of the McKeesport Times, which he owned and published in association with Bartley Campbell, later a well known playwright. In connection with the Times, he ran a large job printing office, and held the contract for the county printing which amounted to $12,000 annually. Until 1865 he was also engaged in the coal business, operating the Aliquippa mines in Mifflin township Allegheny county. In 1895 he sold out his interests to Bailey Whigham & company for $102,000, then until 1889 was heavily engaged in real estate operations, and for years was McKeesport’s largest property owner and tax payer. In 1889 failing health caused him to seek the aid of the baths at Mount Clemens, Michigan. He was so pleased with the improvement in his health and with the town itself, that he decided to make it his home. he purchased land there and erected the Clementine Bath House and the Eastman Hotel, owning both until stricken with paralysis, when he sold the bath house but retained the hotel and other interests he had there acquired.

Among his McKeesport activities was the organization of the McKeesport & Youghiogheny Ice Company, and the erection of its large plant, holding a majority of the stock of that company. He was sole owner of the Crystal Ice Company, also of McKeesport, and so continued until his death at Mount Clemens, in addition to his buildings mentioned, he organized and was president until his death of the Lakeside Street Railway Company, and built the road from Mount Clemens to Detroit. He also secured a charter for the Pittsburgh, Virginia & Charleson Railroad, now a branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad system. A Republican in politics, he was actively interested in politics, served as burgess and councilman several terms, and was influential in party councils. He belonged to the Masonic order, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor, Heptasophs, and other organizations, social, fraternal and political. He loved horses, and his greatest sport was in seeing well-matched running horses. He was fond of baseball and outdoor sports, thoroughly enjoying contests of skill and strength, even in his latter years. He died May 23, 1913, deeply regretted.

Benjamin Biddle Coursin married, June 2, 1858, Sarah P. Haney, who died June 9, 1910, daughter of John and Sarah (Lewis) Haney, Children: Mary V., resides in McKeesport, unmarried; Benjamin Lawrence, of further mention; Edwin S., a clerk, residing in Milwaukee; Charles E., an oil well driller of warren, Ohio; Blanche M., married Robert J. Black, ex-mayor of McKeesport; Clyde C., a physician of St. Louis Missouri; Nellie J., who met a tragic death by drowning at the age of twenty-six years.

Benjamin Lawrence Coursin, eldest son of Benjamin Biddle and Sarah P. (Haney) Coursin, was born in Elizabeth Township, Pennsylvania, September 23, 1860. He was educated at Mansfield Academy and Iron City(end)

-from ‘History of Allegheny County’, page a-305:
Benjamin B. Coursin, McKeesport, was born in East Elizabeth, Allegheny County, Pa., Feb. 22, 1837, a son of Benjamin and Christina Rhodes Coursin. His paternal grandparents were Peter and Hannah (Wynn) Coursin. The former was a native of New Jersey, and with his parents came to this county shortly after the Revolution. Benjamin B. removed with his parents to Reynoldton, opposite McKeesport, in 1849. He received a common-school education and spent two terms at Waynesburg College. After leaving college he served two years’ apprenticeship at the printing trade and for four years thereafter followed the occupation of a steamboat engineer on eastern rivers. He then embarked in the coal business, and was the proprietor of and operated the Alliquippa mines for five years. In 1864 he located in McKeesport, after disposing of his coal interests, and for the succeeding seven years was engaged in buying and improving property within the borough and building dwelling-houses. For several years he was proprietor of a stem job-printing office, the best appointed job-printing office ever in McKeesport, furnishing all the jobwork for Allegheny county for three years in addition to the local work for the borough. He was the founder of the McKeesport Times, which of ra time he successfully conducted. In 1875 he was appointed one of the commissioners on the enlargement of McKeesport borough, to establish lines and procure a charter from the legislature for and to extend the borough limits to the present boundaries. He was a charter member and procured the charter at Harrisburg for the P.V. & C. R. R. Co., and has always taken an active part in everything tending to promote the growth and development of McKeesport. In 1886 he formed the McKeesport & Youghiogheny Ice company, of which he was manager the fist year. In the fall of 1887 he erected the Crystal Ice-House, with a capacity of 4,500 tons, which he is a present managing. He has erected over one hundred dwelling-houses and three business blocks in McKeesport.

June 1, 1859, Mr. Coursin married Sarah P., daughter of John and Sarah (Lewis) Haney, of McKeesport, and by her has seven children living: Virginia M., Benjamin, Edward S., Charles E., Blanche, Clyde C. and Nellie. Mr. Coursin deserves much credit fo his asistance in securing the borough waterworks as a borough investment at a time when a private company had secured a charter and was attempting to supersede the borough in owning and erecting the waterworks. He has served two terms as councilman of the borough, and two terms as burgess. He is a Royal Arch Mason, a member of the I.O.O.F., K of H. and Heptasophs. In politics he was a republican.

Same book as above, pg. a-768:

Benjamin Coursin, retired, postoffice McKeesport, was born in Jefferson Township, Allegheny County Jan. 10, 1807, a son of Peter and Hannah (Winn) Coursin. His father was born in New Jersey in 1765, and died in Elizabeth, this county, at the age of one hundred years and eight months. He came to Allegheny county soon after the Revolution; was a carpenter by trade, though he followed farming to some exent. He settled permanently in Elizabeth township in 1810, and resided there until his death. His children were Polly (Mrs. B. Grimes), Jane (Mrs. Thomas Brant), Nancy (Mrs. George Cunningham), Catherine (Mrs. Joseph Hamilton), Isaac and Benjamin. The last named was reared in Elizabeth, where he resided from 1810 until 1849. He then located at Reynoldton, where he has since resided. He is a boat builder by trade, and was engaged in that business in Elizabeth, West Elizabeth and Reynoldton (opposite McKeesport) for many years. He retired in 1866. He was twice married; first to Christina, daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Rhodes, of Elizabeth township, by whom he had seven children; Isaac, Benjamin B., Frederick, John, Mary (Mrs. Dorsey Downey), david and James P. His second wife was Mrs. Lydia (Hull) Norton. Mr. Coursin is a director of the First National Bank of McKeesport, director of Pittsburgh, Brownsville & Geneva Packet company, and president of the Elizabeth Steam Packet Company. He is a republican.

-from “Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; personal and genealogical. Vol. 2” , pg. 83-84:
Frederick H. Coursin, a prominent real estate dealer, of McKeesport, is descendant of one of the Pioneer families of that city. His ancestors came originally from New Jersey. His grandfather, Peter Coursin, a carpenter by trade, located in Elizabeth in the latter part of the eighteenth century. His family consisted of three daughters and two sons: the oldest daughter married a Belum Grimes, of West Elizabeth; Catherine afterwards Mrs. Hamilton, died at the age of ninety-nine years, two months and twelve days; Nancy, afterwards the wife of George Cunningham; Isaac, who drowned in early manhood; and Benjamin, the youngest of the family. Peter Coursin lived to the extreme old age of 101 years. Benjamin Coursin began his business career in the boat yards of Samuel Walker, at Elizabeth, where he rose to be a foreman and held that position for several years. He then formed a partnership with James Irwin and Richard Stephens as contractors and builders of steam vessels. The firm conducted a successful business until 1849, when the partnership was dissolved. Mr. Coursin then went to McKeesport and located on the Reynoldton side of the Youghiogheny river, in what is now the tenth ward of the city of McKeesport. There he erected a sawmill, and soon afterwards began the boat-building business on his own account. He prospered in his undertaking, and also because interested in a number of stemboat lines operating on the different rivers of the country. After the Civil war he was succeeded by the firm of Himmit, Milliken & chrissinger. This gave Mr. Coursin an opportunity to devoe his time and atention to the different transportation companies in which he was interested, the principal ones being the Northern Line packet company, which ran twelve large steamers, the finest on the Western waters, between St. Louis and St. paul; the Pittsburg, Brownsville & Geneva packet company, and the Elizabeth & Pittsburg line. In each of these companies he was a director, and he was he president of the last-named for several years. At one time the Northern Line paid dividends amounting to fifty per cent. of the capital invested. The others also paid large dividends. Besides his shares in these lines, Mr. coursin held an interest in several large steamers plying between Pittsburg and New orleans, Cincinnati, St. Louis and other points. At that time Elizabeth township included all the territory at present embraced in the townships of Elizabeth, Forward and Lincoln, and on election days some of the voters would have to go several miles to reach the voting place at Elizabeth. On such occasions Benjamin Coursin, who was an ardent republican, would furnish one of his steamers to transport the voters of his party living along the river to the polls and return them to their homes after they had cast their votes. He died at his home in Reynoldton, in his eighty-eighth year. His wife was Chirstina Rhoads, the daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth Rhoads, who lived in a palatial stone mansion overlooking the Monongahela river, opposite the mouth of Peters creek. Benjamin and Christina Coursin were the parents of seven children– six sons and one daughter. They were: Isaac, Benjamin B., Frederick H., John McD., David, James P. and Mary E. Isaac, the eldest son, was engaged in several enerprises, first among them being the boat-building industry, in which he was associated with his uncle, George Cunningham. Later he was interested with his father-in-law, Mr. Wilson, in the milling business, at Bloomington, Ill. During the Civil war, and for some years afterwards, he was in the internal revenue service. Benjamin B., the second son, was at one time extensively interested in the coal mining industry, operating the Aliquippa mines in Mifflin township, now owned by what is known as the “River Combine”. He was also the owner of the McKeesport Times, then a weekly paper, but now the Daily Times. At the present time he is the owner and manage of the Clementine bath house at Mt. Clemens, Mich., the famous health resort. he is also the owner of the Eastman hotel, the finest at Mt. Clemens. John McD., the fourth son, enlisted in early manhoon in Company I, 9th Pennsylvania reserve corps, but died about 1864 from lung trouble, brought on by a severe cold. David died in his infancy, and James P., the youngest son, is now the proprietor of the popular Ringgold hotel in McKeesport. The daughter is now Mrs. B.D. Downey, of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and is interested with her brother in real estate transactions. Frederick H. Coursin, the third son of the family, began business as a coal operator in the sixties. In this business he met with success and abandoned it only to go into the banking business with his father. They opened the first bank in McKeesport, which, after a number of years, was sold to the Commercial banking company, of Pittsburg, and operated as a branch of that institution. After a few years it was reorganized as the First National Bank of McKeesport, and it is one of the strongest financial institutions in western Pennsylvania. Mr. Coursin is at present engaged in buying and selling real estate. He is one of the large property owners of the city, and his office, at No. 519 Market St., is one of the leading real estate marts of McKeesport. Mr. Coursin married Miss Louise, the daughter of Robert and Augusta )Von Sabach) Forsythe. Mrs. Coursin’s mother is a native of Saxe-Coburg,-Gotha, Germany. To this marriage there were born ten children, viz.: Harry, Frederick and Edna, deceased; William, now in charge of ena engineering corps on the Wabash railroad, and stationed at Bridgeville; George, who is in the real estate business at Glassport; Augusta, now the wife of WIlliam Larmer, the representative of the Westinghouse company at Manchester, England; Sarah F., at home, a teacher in the McKeesport schools; Ruth D., now attending art school in Pittsburg; John B., a graduate of Staunton military academy and preparing himself for a surveyor, and Martha J., attending school and living at home with her parents. Mr. Coursin is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of McKeesport, and all his transactions have been characterized by his uprightness and fair dealing.

-from Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; Personal and Genealogical. Vol. 2 , page 469:
B.L. Coursin, alderman from the third ward, McKeesport, was born in the eleventh ward, McKeesport, in 1860, the son of B.P. and Sarah P. Coursin. He was educated first at an academy at Mansfield, Ohio; them in a private school in McKeesport, and finally at the Iron City business college, Pittsburg. Mr. Coursin has had a long and interesting career in the public service. He was first for three years employed in the internal revenue service under the late Thomas W. Davis, and has also served as tobacco inspector of the twenty-third district. He was successfully engaged in the ice business from 1887 to 1896, and was then appointed alderman from the third ward, a position which he has since held, having the distinction of being the first committing alderman given power under Mayor R. J. Black. Mr. Coursin was married, in 1883 to Miss Martha A. Cook, of McKeesport, daughter of Capt. Eli A. Cook, who died in 1896. Mr. and Mrs. Coursin have one daughter, Sarah H. Mr. Coursin is a member of the R. O. L. and the Independent Order of the Heptasophs.

-from The Allegheny river, by Mrs. S. Kussart. , excerpt from chapter “Palmy Days” of Steamboating’:
The Allegheny again became navigable December 17th, and the packets operated until the close of the year, having all the business they could handle. The owners of the packet Echo, at the time she was re-enrolled, April 7, 1862, were Alexander Campbell, of Brady’s Bend, a two-thirds interest; and Benjamin Coursin, of McKeesport, a one-third interest. When re-enrolled, November 10, 1862, Benjamin Coursin was the sole owner. Built in 1858, the Echo had proved a most successful and useful steamer, on account of her light draft, 100 tons, and the expert management of her commander, Captain Ezekiel Gordon, a veteran in the river business.

(p 247) ‘The New Allegheny’:

River packet, Echo No. 3, two-thirds of which was owned by James Rees, Pittsburgh steamboat and engine builder, and the remainder by Benjamin Coursin, of McKeesport, Pa., was first enrolled at the Cutom House, Pittsburgh, January 30, 1864, and was a sternwheel boat of 147 tons burden, commanded by Captain Ezekiel Gordon, who was now the oldest man in point of service in the Allegheny River trade. The Echo No. 3 departed for Oil City on January 30, 1864, and proved a very successful steamer in her trade.