4. John Sherry and Catherine McAleer   13 comments

John Sherry was born in Ireland, in County Cork, according to family accounts in 1825 of Phillip Sherry and Catherine Walsh. He is said to have at least one brother. One sister, listed in his will in 1911 was Sarah Mann. living at 97 Upper Meadow St., Belfast, Ireland. His wife, Catherine McAleer, was born in 1831. The date of their marriage is unclear. Their first 5 children were born in England, at least Catherine (Kate), in Manchester.

It is believed that John Sherry came to America about 1864. Family tradition says he settled in Derry or New Derry, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. He intended to get a wagon, develop a hauling business and send for his family. Within a few years he had done just that.  By 1867, he bought a 60 x  70 ft. lot on Liberty Avenue in Lawrenceville for $550.00.

Over the next 60 years he continued to develop his hauling business, delivering produce and other goods from Lawrenceville to Wilkinsburg and other places. He began buying property in his own name and the names of his wife Catherine and his children, including James J. and Anna Mary. He bought lots in East Liberty, Homewood, Mount Washington, and Wilkinsburg. The horses and wagons for his business were kept in East Liberty, and in later years in Murraysville.

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In January 1878, John and Catherine’s son John, aged 18, born in England, died.  They bought a 6 grave plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery, 46th St. Lawrenceville, and buried John there (Plot 221G). It lies under a large maple tree, marked by a simple sill-type white granite grave stone that says only ‘Sherry’ in 4 inch letters.

One month later, James McGill, 1 year old son of John McGill and Catherine (Kate) Sherry McGill died of a brain ailment and was buried in the family plot. Over the next 85 years, 18 persons were buried in the Sherry plot, including John and Catherine. Ten of them were children under 2 years old.The names include Manion, Sherry, McGill and Metzler.

Included among those who were buried there were: John Metzler, March 1880, 2 days old, premature and infant Metzler, February 1883, stillborn – children of Emerson Bennett Metzler and Anna Mary Sherry Metzler. A third child of Emerson and Anna, Sarah Josephine Metzler, was born Nov. 29, 1888 and was baptized at St. James Church, Wilkinsburg on Dec. 16 1888. It is presumed that she died young and was buried in the same plot, although there is no record either of her death or burial.

Ellen Sherry Streb, age 26 years, 6 months, John and Catherine’s daughter, died in childbirth in Ohio at Christmas, 1896, and was buried from St. James Church, Wilkinsburg, and laid in the family plot in Lawrenceville. The Schneider twins, Elizabeth and Catherine, daughters of George and Theresa Sherry Schneider, and sisters of Sister Rose Marie Schneider, Sister of Charity, were both buried there in 1899, both under 8 months old. They were also baptized and buried from St. James Church.

Helen Kerns, daughter of Elizabeth (Lizzie) Sherry Kerns, died at 18 in December 1933 and was buried there. In February, 1950, Lizzie, now married to Thomas Smith, was buried there. Her husband followed in June, 1953 and was laid beside her. The last burials there were Susan M. Whiteside, stillborn, in 1961, and David G. Whiteside 16 days, in 1963,  both children of James and Elizabeth Whiteside, and grandchildren of Lizzie Sherry Smith. The last five were buried from St. Justin Church, Mount Washington.

John and Catherine Sherry probably still lived in Lawrenceville when their son John died on January 15, 1878. But the 1880 census lists them as living in Sterrett Township, no longer in existence. It included the area of Homewood around present Sterrett St.

On December 8, 1882, John in Catherine’s name, bought a double lot on South Avenue in Wilkinsburg near Coal St. and extending to Franklin Avenue, now know as 910 and 912 South Avenue. John built 3 houses there, all of which are still standing today. The first house was built at 910 in the rear.

The property has an interesting history. James Kelly was a great benefactor of the churches in Wilkinsburg where the churches now stand. Although not especially fond of Catholics, on January 17, 1868, Kelly deeded the property on South Avenue to Bishop Domenec of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, “…for a house of worship for the Roman Catholic congregation of Wilkinsburg”.

For unknown reasons, most of the people and the Bishop thought it was not the proper place for a church. They arranged to have another site, that of the present St. James school of Franklin Ave., bought for them from Kelly by a member of the church committee of St. Mary’s Church, 46th St. When James discovered this, he was furious. He felt a Catholic church at that location would lower property values and make it difficult for him to sell his surrounding property.

He took the congregation to court to have his original property returned to him, since he knew they would need to sell it to acquire the money needed to build at the new site. He claimed that he had donated the lot ‘for a house of worship’, and if it were not to be used for that purpose, he had a right to have it back.

He lost the case, October 16, 1882. The South Ave. property was bought in Catherine Sherry’s name from Bishop Twigg, Bishop Domenec’s successor, 2 months later.

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The link between the John Sherry family and St. James Church, Wilkinsburg, has been constant through the years. The first record is of the baptism of Mary McGill, December 7, 1873, the daughter of John McGill and Catherine (Kate) Sherry. In March 1875, Anna Sherry, who was to become Anna Metzler a few years later, was Godmother to Joseph McGill, baptized at St. James.

On November 14, 1888, Warren A. Metzler was confirmed there. On 19 April, 1891, Marie Metzler was baptized in that church. In September 1896, Sister Rose Marie was baptized at St. James. And in December of the same year, Warren Metzler was Godfather there for Eugene Sherry, Francis Sherry’s eldest son. In November 1898, Warren Metzler was Godfather to Elizabeth Schneider, one of the twins who died as infants.

In September 1902, Francis Metzler was Godfather to Marie Sherry, daughter of Thomas Sherry (now Marie Buckley, age 80 living in Avalon, Pa. with her husband).

The Godparents for Anna Virginia Sherry, daughter of Francis Sherry, were Frank Sherry and Annie Metzler, presumably later Sister Mary Hubert Metzler, Sister of Charity.

And the list from St. James records of Baptisms, marriages, and deaths of Sherrys, McGills, Schneiders and Metzlers goes on and on. Thomas Sherry, youngest son of Frank Sherry, still attends Mass here. The final irony: on December 1, 1981, Rev. Warren W. Metzler,  grandson of Warren A. Metzler and great-grandson of John and Catherine Sherry was appointed pastor to St. James Church, Wilkinsburg. (Note: Fr. Metzler, at this writing, February 2012, after 30 years, still remains pastor there. WM). The Sherry-Metzler connection with St. James Church has come full circle.

St James old church

St James old school & convent

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John and Catherine Sherry soon built a larger house at 912 South Ave. and moved into it. John built a 3rd house at 910 South Ave. in front of the first one and rented it to tenants.

Catherine Sherry died October 25, 1893, in the house at 912 South Ave., in a uremea coma. She was buried from St. James Church and laid to rest in the family plot in Lawrenceville. Since the South Ave. property was in her name, it went in equal parts to all of her living children, who immediately sold it back to John Sherry for $1.00.

In a deed transfer titled ‘Joseph Manion et. al. (and others), to John Sherry’, and dated October 30, 1893, are listed the names of all the Sherry surviving children and their spouses in this way: ‘Joseph Manion and Sarah J. Manion nee Sherry, his wife; John McGill and Catherine McGill nee Sherry, his wife; James J. Sherry; Emerson B. Metzler and Annie M. Metzler nee Sherry, his wife; Thomas J. Sherry; Patrick Keenan and Mary Keenan nee Sherry, his wife; Elizabeth Kearns nee Sherry, widow; George Schneider and Theresa Schneider nee Sherry, his wife; Ella E. Sherry and Francis Sherry, all of the County of Allegheny and State of Pennsylvania.’ James J. was to die 7 months later of Scarlet Fever.

After James died in 1894, John moved in with his daughter Theresa, Mrs. George Schneider and her family at 1215 Rebecca Ave., two blocks away in Wilkinsburg. Now in his 70’s, John made at least 3 trips back to Belfast, Ireland to visit. Each time he brought back a young Irish girl as a domestic servant.

The family was concerned that he would marry one of them. But John, a non-drinker, non-smoker and a ‘great respecter of women’ (according to his granddaughter, Catherine Sherry  Duffy, 84, now living in North Braddock, PA.) never gave his family cause to worry on that account.

John would bring back gifts for his 2 favorite grandchildren, Elberta Schneider, (soon to follow her favorite baby-sitter, Sister Mary Hubert Metzler, into the convent as a Sister of Charity, and take the name Sister Rose Marie) and Agnes Sherry, a daughter of Thomas Sherry. Agnes had fallen from the hay loft when she was a child and the family lived on the Weir farm on Kittanning Pike in Sharpsburg. She injured her leg severely and it had to be amputated.

John turned operation of his hauling business over go his son Thomas Sherry about 1906-1907. Tom was not a good manager in John’s estimation, so John, about 1909, turned the business over to his son Frank Sherry. The horses suddenly became diseased and all died, and Frank lost the business. In the last 2 years of his life John never forgave son Frank for the loss of the business, although it does not seem to have been Frank’s fault.

John died February 15k, 1911 at the age of 84, of ‘grip and cardiac weakness’, at the family home at 910 South Avenue.

In his will, John Sherry left a property at the corner of William and Jennie Streets and extending to Nimick St.,19th Ward, Pgh.,  to his son Thomas J. Sherry. An adjoining lot was left to his crippled granddaughter, Agnes Sherry, Thomas’ daughter.

The gift to Thomas was subject to he payment of $1500 in the following manner: $200.00 each to John’s daughters Elizabeth Smith, Mary Keenan, Kate MeGill, Sarah Jane Manion and Anne Metzler. $150.00 was left to executor George Schneider to buy 3 headstones, one for John, one for Catherine and one for son John who died at 18, to be placed in the family burial plot in St. Mary’s Cemetery 46th  St. Pittsburgh, PA: $100.00 to Theresa Schneider to pay for Masses for John and wife Catherine, $200.00 to his executor to pay for his funeral expenses; and $50.00 to his sister, Sarah Mann, 97 Upper Meadow St. Belfast, Ireland.

All his furniture , trunks, pictures, books and household effects, he left to his daughter, Theresa Schneider. John, rightly or wrongly, seems to have been very disillusioned with the 2 sons who survived him. Three other sons, John and 2 named James, died young.

His will states: “I give, devise and bequeath to my son Thomas J. Sherry my gold watch and chain”, and “I do not remember my son Frank in this will for the reason he has already received his full share of my estate.”

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John Sherry seems to have been a strong-willed, hard-working, clean living Catholic Irishman who expected hard work from others and was less than forgiving of their mistakes. Yet he was compassionate to the religious and the unfortunate. It is said that he delivered coal and blankets for the winter unbidden to the Charity sisters at St. James Convent. Margaret Metzler remembers him spending almost every Sunday traveling to teach Sunday School with the Mission Confraternity of Pittsburgh in the mining towns around the county.

Little is known of Catherine, his wife. She seems to have been a quiet unassuming woman who obeyed her husband in all things, even when it meant being left behind in a strange land in England with 5 children when her husband went to America to start a new life for them.

All her 13 children outlived her but 2: John Sherry, who died in 1878 at the age of 18, and James Sherry, who died at age 4 months, 17 days, of cholera in 1881. Her second son James J. died 7 months after her death.


Posted February 13, 2012 by wmetzler

13 responses to “4. John Sherry and Catherine McAleer

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  1. Hi, I am looking for information on a Ja. J. Sherry, Esq., of Wilkinsburg, Pa.
    I found a prayer book with his name, the date March 6, 1901, and St. James Church written on the first page. This was found in my mother’s belongings after she passed. I am taking it that he is related through Thomas and Elizabeth (Sherry) Smith as my grandmother was a Smith from Allegheny Co., Pa. Any help would be greatly appriciated. Thank you

  2. So sorry to learn that your sister has passed. My mother, Nora Sherry, passed away in January of 2012. I am still working on Sherry Family History. Most of this post is accurate, but there are a few things I am not so sure about. I will let you know if you are interested.

    • Thank you for your concern. I knew your mother well. I was assigned to St Susanna parish from 1971 to 1976. Your mother and father also attended our Monday night novena here at St James regularly during the 1980s.
      They will both be in my prayers.

      You might look over the comment from Doreen Slawter. Perhaps you can answer her question. I cannot.

      Father Metzler

  3. Thank you for your kind words. We met at Mary Nano. fureral last October. Your sister helped me a lot before she passed. I think I can help the woman you refered……this may be our great grandfather’s prayer book.

  4. John Sherry was my great grandfather. I have a significant amount of information about him and his family. His youngest son Frank was my father’s(Thomas F Sr.) father. They all lived in the Pittsburgh area. Much of my family still does. Where does your family fit in?

    This book may be John’s Prayer book…….he died around 1911.

    • My grandmother was a Smith. I’m not sure exactly where she was born but in 1904 and in the 1910 census she was in Allegany Co. Pa. as a five year old daughter of George and Elizabeth Smith. I know George was born in Ohio and I think his father Lawson was too but died in the same area of Pa. They lived there for quite awhile. The Smith’s came from Pa. according to my grandmother. Marcella Smith married David Fredrick Swartzlander who came from Pa. in the same Co. I don’t know much of the Smiths as it never came up while Marcella was alive. No one ever tried to do the tree. I have a brother and uncle who are both working on it as well as I am. I just happen to have my mother’s papers and things. I didn’t think too much of the prayer book till a short time ago. With the records of my grandmother’s birth not being available we are having a problem with this family.

      Doreen Slawter
  5. I forgot Frank……the youngest son of John.

  6. Elizabeth Ann Sherry was born to John Sherry and Catherine(McAleer) in Manchester Lancashire England around 1863. She died in Pittsburgh 1/29/1950 and is buried with Thomas Smith her husband who passed 6/1953. Her age at burial is younger than other records suggest it should have been(guess some things never change). I think they were married in 1894…………I think they had 1 son, but I am not sure. She shows up as “Lizzie Sherry” in the 1880 census at age 17 with many of her sibs and John and Catherine in Sterret Allegheny PA. There is a Lizze Sherry in the 1900 census in the same area but the age and birth place don’t match up. Hope that helps. Not sure we are talking about the same family.

  7. A few more comments. Elizabeth A Sherry married Thomas Kearns in 1886. He died and she remarried in 1895 to Thomas Smith. The 1910 and 1920 census says they had children named Elizabeth(Whiteside), Jennie, Anna, Joseph, and Thomas. I am confident in that information.

  8. Thanks, this gives me more to look into. The Smith name is kind of hard to follow but we are working through it. The names you have given me will give some place to look. There has to be some connection if I have the prayer book. In the back is a tin photo of a man but no name written anywhere except at the front of the book.

    Doreen Slawter
  9. One final note. Ja J Sherry……….is probably James J Sherry. There are a few of these in the family over this time peroid. I would love to see the photo.

  10. Can you supply an e-mail for me to send the pic to? I have not tried to scan it because it is dark but I will do my best.

    Doreen Slawter

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