ROBERT C. OSBURN, a leading and eminently prosperous merchant of Eldersville, Penn., was born in 1842 in Robinson township, this county. The pioneers of the family resided in Westmoreland county, same State. His grandfather, James Osburn, was born in Ireland, and married to a Miss Cutcheon, of the same part of that country. Emigrating to America, they, settling in Washington county, Penn., reared a large family. Some of their numerous descendants remained in Westmoreland county, while others settled in Johnstown, Penn., and among those who perished in the dreadful flood were Squire Fisher, his wife (a cousin of Robert C. Osburn) and six children. James Osburn died in Westmoreland county.
James Osburn was born in Ireland, being nine years of age when his parents settled in Westmoreland county, Penn. He was reared on the farm, and continued to follow agriculture most of his life, also worked at the milling business for a time in Jefferson township, this county. In early manhood he was married to Martha McKennett, of Robinson township, this county. Her father, Adam McKennett, was born in Ireland, and, immigrating to America, first settled in Fayette county, Penn., thence coming to Cecil township, this county, locating on what is now called Miller's run. Remaining there but a short time, he finally bought a place in Robinson township, now known as the old Adam McKennett farm, occupied by his descendants. He was married to Rebecca Johnston. To James Osburn four children were born: one deceased in infancy, James J. (living in Robinson township), George W. (a resident of Burgettstown, Penn.), and Robert C. The father died in 1843, in his forty- second year, and his wife mourned her loss until the age of eighty-two years, when she was called to her rest, passing away in 1885.
Robert C. Osburn lived on the home place until eighteen years of age, and received a good common-school and academic education. He then taught five terms of school, afterward taking a course at Duff's Mercantile College, Pittsburgh, Penn. He graduated in 1864, after which he opened a general store in Eldersville, Penn. At that time goods were yet sold at war prices, and even a small store required a large amount of money. To illustrate the marked contrast between the prices then and those of the present day, we give a few examples: Prints now selling at 7 and 8 cents a yard, then brought from 45 to 50 cents; muslin now worth 8 or 9 cents a yard, then sold at 75 or 80 cents; all-wool flannel cost $1 per yard, which is now procured at about one-third of that price; kerosene was 80 cents a gallon; sugar 25 cents a pound, and coffee so expensive that rye, chicory, burnt crusts, etc., were used by everyone as a substitute.
In 1868 Robert C. Osburn was married to Mary, daughter of James P. Robertson, of Eldersville, Penn. She died in 1877, and he was afterward married to Hannah M., daughter of W. W. Knight, of Jefferson township, this county. This wife died in 1882, and Mr. Osburn's third choice was made in the person of Hattie M., daughter of Cyrus McConnell, of Hanover township, this county. Mr. Osburn's business has steadily increased, and he is now the proprietor of a large store replete with a complete and varied stock of dry goods, groceries and hardware. When he began business at Eldersville he was obliged to haul goods eight miles from Steubenville to his store; but no obstacles daunted his energetic spirit, and his life success has been made in the town where he had made so humble a beginning twenty-eight years ago. In 1871 the large and comfortable dwelling was erected which is now his home and place of business. In politics Mr. Osburn is a Republican, an active worker in the party, and has filled various township offices.
Text taken from page 894 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
Transcribed March 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.
Published April 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.
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