Plympton Ross Berry was born in 1835 a free black man
in Lawrence County, PA. By the age of sixteen he was a
master brick and stonemason.
In 1851 he was hired to do the brickwork on the Lawrence
County Court House. March of 1858, P. Ross married Mary
Long. In 1861 he traveled with his wife and four children
from New Castle, PA by canal boat to Youngstown after
being awarded the brickwork contract for the original
Rayen School. P. Ross Berry stood six and one half feet
tall and was well known for his skill and honesty. He was
held in such high regard that he had white men working
He was a leader among the growing community of African
Americans who moved to Youngstown after the Civil War.
Newly arrived residents were employed by P. Ross or Lemuel
Stewart. Berry went on to other major building projects.
He laid the brickwork for the original Rayen School, the
Homer Hamilton & Company, the parish of St. Columba
Church, Youngstown City Jail, William Hitchcock Mansion,
First Presbyterian Church, Gov. David Tod's Mansion,
Baptist Temple, Youngstown's Grand Opera House and Tod
In 1865, he returned to New Castle to build the Disciple
Church. Lemuel Stewart, a brick mason and his wife Mary
Richards moved to Youngstown from New Castle, Pa during
the civil war. The Stewart and Ross family became friends
and became connected by marriage, setting up a dynasty
that lasted generations.
In the next generations of the families were doctors,
dentists, attorneys, musicians and leaders. The
Stewart-Berry family reunions were very notable community
In 1907, P. Ross and Mary Berry's daughter-in-law, Lenora
Berry founded St. Augustine's Church of which present
Berry-Stewart family members belong. December 1908,
Mary Long Berry died. Her obituary in the Youngstown
Vindicator described her as a well-known and highly
She was buried in the family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery.
P. Ross Berry laid brick until the age of 82. His sons,
Charles, Don, Wilson and Plympton carried on the family
business and specialized in brick mantels. He had eight
children and he lived to see his youngest three graduate
from The Rayen School. He died on May 12, 1917 and is
buried in the family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery.
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