The Sarah Hearn Memorial Presbyterian Church at 947 W 9th Street and the home at 832 Cascade both still stand to represent the built history of the Hearn family in Erie.
Sarah Loomis Brown Hearn was born in 1823 to Hiram and Philena Brown. Hiram Brown was born in North East PA in 1800, his parents Lemuel Brown and Sarah Loomis were pioneer settlers of this area of Erie County. Lemuel Brown one of the first tavern owners in North East PA. The family’s original tavern was on the site of the present day Haynes House. According to the History of Erie County Pennsylvania: “In course of time, the tow Browns almost monopolized the tavern business of the town. Hiram L. eventually purchased the Eagle Hotel at the corner of State street and the northeast side of the Park in Erie. It burnt down and he erected another house on its site, which was known as Brown’s Hotel until its purchase by Col. Ellsworth, when the name was changed to the Ellsworth House.” The Brown’s Hotel was built in 1851, became the Ellsworth House in 1869 and was torn down entirely in 1891 (By William Scott, who had intentions to build a new building there but died before he got a chance, leaving an empty lot until the Ford Hotel/Richford Arms was built in 1928).
Lemuel Brown (Sarah’s grandfather) was born in 1774 in Massachusetts, his wife, Sarah Loomis was also born in Massachusetts and her father, Seth Loomis, was also an early settler of North East, coming to Pennsylvania around 1800. The Loomis family was also integral to the foundation of North East. Seth’s grandson, Rufus, built the first church there. These two pioneer families of North East, the Brown and Loomis family joined when Lemuel Brown married Sarah Loomis. Their son Hiram’s daughter (Lemuel and Sarah’s granddaughter), Sarah Loomis married John Hearn, who immigrated in Erie from Ireland. Sarah, John, and their children lived at Sarah’s parent’s hotel on State and North Park Row for many years.
Eventually Sarah and John Hearn purchased their home at 144 W 6th Street (constructed in 1839), which was a brick house adjoining what was once the Erie County jail and which is now the parking lot for the County Courthouse. John was a coal merchant and the couple was very wealthy. According to the 1870 census, John Hearn’s personal value was $145,000 which equals approximately $3,000,000 today.
Sarah and John’s son, Hudson, was ultimately responsible for the construction of the Sarah Hearn Church at 947 W 9th Street. According to Hudson’s will: “as soon as the common stock of the Nickel Plate railroad reached the price of $115 a share, 1000 shares were to be sold and a church erected to the memory of his mother.” Hudson was unmarried and lived at his mother’s residence at 144 W 6th St until his own death, 3 years after his mother’s death. Construction on the church was eventually completed in 1926 with work being done by the H. Platt Company. A time capsule was placed in the cornerstone of the building containing “a bible, an American flag, program of the cornerstone laying service, officers of the church, history of the church, newspapers and other articles.” The original pastor of the church was Charles S. Beatty. Sarah Hearn’s great-grandson, George Hearn, son of Chester and Harriet Hearn, was present at the ceremony. The church is now known as New Revelation Full Gospel Baptist Church but it does not have an active congregation presently.
Chester Gordon Hearn, Sarah’s grandson, and his wife, Harriet Nelson Hearn occupied the home at 823 Cascade. Tax records for this property exist from around 1896, but this intersection of the city was also the home of Chester’s parents, Capt. Charles C. and Helen Hearn, where Chester would have grown up, as well as Chester’s wife, Harriet, who grew up on the opposite (northeast) corner (which is now an empty lot). The address was sometimes listed on census reports as 1002 W 9th St, particularly in reference to Charles’ address, which likely means either this home was built before 1896 or another dwelling was there before the current home was built with the 832 Cascade address. In 1907, Chester had the southern addition and porch added. Chester Hearn was a banker, auditor and cashier for the First National Bank which was established by William Spencer and his son, Judah Colt Spencer. Chester’s mother, Helen Hayward Hearn, was a daughter of the American Revolution: her Great Grandfather, Daniel Hayward Jr. served in Capt. Gershom Nelson’s company, Col. Ezra Wood’s regiment, of the Massachusetts Continental Line. Chester and Harriet had four children: Chester Jr (a banker), John (who died at age 28 from meningitis), George (a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard), and Harriet (a teacher in Erie’s Public Schools). Chester died suddenly in 1934 and Harriet and, sporadically, her adult children lived in the home on 9th and Cascade until around 1944. Harriet moved to 453 W 6th Street after that time and lived there until her death in 1965. The home is now a four family unit apartment building.