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A businesswoman and philanthropist. Served as director of several corporate boards in western Pennsylvania and one of the wealthiest women on the East Coast in the early 20th century.
Sarah Boyd Moore was born in Lower Tyrone Township, Pennsylvania, to a family of farmers. As a young adult, she worked as a housekeeper in James Cochran’s home, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in coal and coke production. At 22, she married Cochran’s son, Philip Galley Cochran, and in the following year, she gave birth to her first and only child, James Philip Cochran.
In 1894, her father-in-law died, and her husband inherited the family business. He believed in his wife’s intellect and abilities and taught her all about the coal business. Five years later, passed away, and she and her son assumed control over the family’s estates. A few years later, her son died of pneumonia when he is only 21 years old, and she remained the single beneficiary. Cochran became president of the Brown & Cochran Coke Company, Juniata Coke Company, Dawson Bridge Company, Washington Coal & Coke Company, and First National Bank of Dawson.
Under her leadership, the business expanded and grew threefold. She founded and was a stockholder of various new companies, including the First National Bank of Perryopolis and the Cochran Coal & Coke Company of Morgantown, West Virginia. She also expanded her market and sold coke in Mexico, France, England, and Germany. During this period, Cochran was among the wealthiest women on the East Coast, nicknamed “the nation’s only coal queen.”
Cochran was also a generous philanthropist, giving donations to improve the education of individuals, institutions, and colleges. In 1905, she donated $50,000 to construct a men’s dormitory at Allegheny College and became the college’s first female trustee. She was also a trustee of Beaver College (now Arcadia University), and American University. Cochran used her social status to advocate for women’s suffrage, and in 1915, she hosted a suffrage tea fundraiser at Linden Hall with approximately 600 guests who donated for the cause.
Cochran was semi-invalid in her last 15 years after fracturing her hip and arm, though she remained active in her business and charity work. She died at the age of 79, and her memorial service at the Philip G. Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church was themed “The Ministry of Woman.”
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- During her upbringing, her parents could not afford to pay for clothes, so she did not go to school every day.
- Cochran was inspired by St. James’s Park in London to build a Tudor mansion of her own near her childhood home in Pennsylvania. The estate, called Linden Hall at St. James’ Park, had more than thirty rooms, three signed Tiffany windows, and a railroad stop. Nowadays, it is a beautiful resort and a conference center.
- She sponsored the American citizenship of the 60 Italian stonecutters who executed the stonework in her mansion.
- In 1900, Cochran dedicated a church in Dawson, Pennsylvania, in memoriam of her late husband. Later, she financed the church’s rebuilding in a Gothic style and renamed it the Philip G. Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church.
- In 1921, she held the porch door open during a windstorm, and a gust of wind pushed her against a piece of furniture, causing her fractures in the hip and arm, leaving her semi-invalid.
- In her memorial service, the ministers were speaking about female Biblical figures as a comparison to her.
- One of the individuals whom Cochran financed their education was the great-grandmother of Kimberly Hess, who wrote Cochran’s inspiring biography, called “A Lesser Mortal: The Unexpected Life of Sarah B. Cochran.” In this book, Hess “reveals the little-known story of a woman from American history who was constantly doing the unthinkable – from expanding her company, to becoming a respected benefactor of her community.”
- Both the Philip G. Cochran Memorial United Methodist Church and Linden Hall were added to the National Register of Historic Places.
- She built Cochran Hall as a women’s dormitory at Otterbein University in Ohio.
- She was a benefactor of her son’s fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, until she died.
- In 1916 she hosted the Methodist bishops of the world at Linden Hall for their semi-annual meeting. It was reportedly the first time this meeting was held at a private home.
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One of Her Landmarks
Photo credit - courtesy of Kimberly Hess and the Linden Hall at Saint James Park is from Wikipedia