Brown, Hallie Q.
ELIZA ANNA SCROGGINS
Eliza Anna Scroggins was born March 12, 1820, at Newtown, Virginia, a small town not far from Winchester which is now called Union City. At an early age her mother moved to Winchester where she lived for some years. When a young girl, being born free, she was bound out as a nurse. During the day she looked after the children and after they retired she was made to knit stockings. This knitting was always done standing until nine p.m. Her employers were hard task-masters. Several times she ran away but was always pursued and taken back. As a punishment an extra task was added to her daily duties and always a threat accompanied to cut off her beautiful curls. To have curls was the greatest desire of her employer's children, but their hair was very straight; hence, arose a spirit of jealousy. Mrs. Scroggins went to see Eliza. Eliza told her mother all of her sorrows and few joys and of the threat to cut her hair. The mother protested and said that under no circumstances must this be done. With Eliza's feeling of discontent and the continuous running away it was decided to have her return to her home. Some time afterward she left Winchester for Wheeling, W. Va. She became a member of the Presbyterian Church (white) of that city and was an acceptable member during her stay. Among her employers of Wheeling was the family of a Presbyterian minister, Wade by name. The Wades were very fond of her and treated her more like one of the family, permitting her to sit in the living room with them evenings to sew or knit. She often related how Mrs. Wade would leave the
82house by the back gate every Sunday after dinner, clad in clothes very different from the ones she wore to church in the morning. It was whispered that she went to teach colored children to read the Bible. Several years were spent in Wheeling when she decided to go to Pittsburgh. One of her first acts after arriving in that city was to join the A. M. E. Church which was then located in Miltenburger's Alley. She made her home with her sister Mrs. F. J. Brown until she was married to William B. Austin in 1844. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Frederick Davis pastor of the A. M. E. Church. After the minister was paid the bridegroom had twelve cents in his pockets. The newly-married began house keeping on a small scale, having one thought, 'Marry for love and work for riches." It was through her Christian character and influence that the husband joined the church. Their interest and activities knew no bounds and when it was decided to buy land and build a church on Wylie Avenue corner of Elm Street Mr. Austin gave the last five dollars he had to aid in the establishment of the new church. This zeal never abated. In 1857 the husband was called from labor to reward. In the early morning (Friday) of November 13, 1857, the boiler of the steamer
which was plying in the Missouri river north of St. Louis exploded. Mr. Austin's quarters being near the boiler room, he was scalded so badly that his condition was considered serious. Being taken to a hospital in St. Louis he lingered ten days and passed into the great beyond, leaving a young widow and two small children. At 7 p.m. of November 12th the second child was born to the subject of this sketch. It was Thursday, a damp dreary night and a drizzling rain had set in. The baby sneezed three times when being dressed, some considered it a singular coincidence, others an omen. However, kind friends watched over the widow while others sped to St. Louis with all possible haste to bring the remains of the husband to Pittsburgh where he was laid to rest by the worthy order of Masons of which he was a member. After the husband's
83death the widow could always be found in her pew in the "Amen Corner" giving voice and aid for every uplift. She was four years on the stewardess board and always showed an interest in every good work. After six years the older child, a boy of ten years was killed by the cars on Easter Saturday while he was trying to sell papers to help his mother. The abounding faith in God only made this Christian woman work for the advancement of Christ and His Kingdom.
At the age of 92 years she fell asleep in Jesus leaving a shining example of Christian fortitude for loved ones and friends to follow.