George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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commanding, as it does, the Ohio river, containing so many manufacturing estab-
lishments, and especially an arsenal, powder magazines and a cannon foundry, it is
a place the enemy would necessarily be very anxious to possess. * * * I do
not represent my own views, but those of one iat headquarters and cognizant as
far as any private individual can be, of the views of the government."

This uneasiness as to a possible attack on Pittsburgh continued to exist, and in
May and June, 1863, when the confederates were concentrating for an invasion of
Pennsylvania, among loyal men in a position to know at Washington and in
West Virginia and in Pittsburgh, there existed no doubt that the city of Pitts-
burgh was in great peril. On the 10th of June, four days before the dispatches
already mentioned as received by General Brooks, the following dispatch was-
sent to Pittsburgh :

War Department, 11:45 P. M.,

Washington, June 10, 1863.
To Hon. Thos. M. Howe:

Major General Brooks left here this morning for
Pittsburgh to take command of the Department of the Monongahela. He is an
able and resolute officer, but will need all the assistance you and your people can
give. I wish you would go on his staff. The latest intelligence indicates that you
have no time to lose in organizing and preparing for defense. All the field artil-
lery on hand at Watertown has been sent by express to Pittsburgh. Whatever
aid can be given here you shall have. Edvv^in M. Stanton.

General Brooks arrived in Pittsburgh on June 11th, and on the evening of the
14th a meeting of the more prominent manufacturers, and other citizens, was at


once called by General Brooks for consultation. It being Sunday evening, many
of those whose advice was desired were at church, and were called out by special
messengers. The meeting continued in session until a late hour. At midnight it
was determined that the work-shops should all be closed, and the men employed
throwing up earthworks around the city, under charge of the government engi-
neers, who had been sent from Washington to lay out the defences. This was
done; and for two weeks' time Pittsburgh bore much the aspect of a beleagured
■city. During that time thousands of men were busy constructing rifle-pits and
earthworks for the mounting of cannon. From fifteen to sixteen thousand men
were at times laboring in the entrenchments, which extended from Saw Mill run,
now in the Thirty-sixth ward of Pittsburgh, along the range of hills running up
the south side of the Monongahela, to about opposite the Four Mile run, in the
Twenty-third ward of Pittsburgh ; across the city from the Monongahela to the
Allegheny, and on the Allegheny side along the Ohio river.

The extent and strength of those fortifications constructed in two weeks' time
is best shown by the following extract from a report made by Captain Craighill,
an United States engineer officer in charge of the work, to the Committee of
Public Safety before mentioned. Says the report, " It is well known that when
General Barnard arrived here, the city was not supposed to be threatened by any-
thing more serious than a raid of a few thousands of cavalry or mounted infantry,
accompanied by light artillery. The instructions from Washington under which
we acted looked to securing the city against attack. This has been done. We
are, moreover, in a condition to make a vigorous defence against an army,"

On the day succeeding the Sunday evening meeting, a dispatch was sent by
Governor Curtin to Hon. Thomas M. Howe, then and for some time previous
Assistant Adjutant General of the Western District of Pennsylvania, communi-
cating the movements of the Confederates, and urging him to arouse the public ;

HARRiSBURa, June 15, 1863.
Hon. T. M. Howe:

The following received from Chambersburg, eight P. M. ; make it public and
arouse the people: "Lieutenant Palmer, of Purnell's Cavalry, has just came in;
had to fight his way through two miles this side of Greencastle ; reports enemy
advancing in three columns — one towards W^aynesboro and Gettysburg; one direct
to Chambersburg, and one toward Mercerburg and Cove Mountain ; not known
whether they will proceed in separate columns or concentrate here. Large fire
«een in direction of Greencastle. Palmer reports column at Greencastle about
five thousand strong, principally cavalry, supported by infantry and artillery."


Governor of Pennsylvania.

On the 17th the following spirited order was issued by General Howe:

Headquarters Penn'a Militia, Western District,

Pittsburgh, June 17, 1863.

Eeliable advices having been received at these headquarters that a force of the

enemy at eleven o'clock this morning had advanced twelve miles westward from

Cumberland, giving unmistakable indications of their purpose to invade this

neighborhood, I desire again to call upon all good citizens in Western Pennsylva-


nia capable of bearing arms to enroll themselves immediately into military organ-
izations and to report to me for duty.

If we would stay the march of the invader, we must be prepared to admonish
him that we are fully organized and ready to receive him in a manner becoming
freemen who cherish time-honored institutions, in defence of which so many of
our sons and brothers have alreary offered their lives a willing sacrifice. Let us
emulate their glorious example, and never let it be written of us that we proved
recreant in the hour of danger. Whenever companies are duly enrolled and re-
ported to these headquarters, whey will be called and assigned to duty by Major
Oeneral Brooks, whenever and as the emergency may seem to demand, and who
will be prepared to furnish arms and equipments. Thomas M. Howe,

A. A. Adjutant General State of Penn'a

In connection with this order it is proper to mention that the entire handling
and movements of the volunteer and drafted troops in their preliminary organi-
zation were through General Howe's orders and oversight. Enjoying throughout
the war the fullest confidence of the general and State government, the labors of
his office were performed by him without compensation or without recompense,
satisfied with the consciousness of fully rendering that patriotic service prompted
by his high sense of his personal duty to his country in its hour of peril.

During the two weeks in which the city was being fortified business was
to a great extent suspended, and for several days entirely so. The necessity of
those expenditures of time and money has frequently been questioned by those
not fully acquainted with all the circTimstances. There is little or no doubt that
the capture of Pittsburgh was contemplated by the rebels. Its geographical
position, its resources, and the vast arsenal that was, and could be made, all
rendered it a strong strategetical point, whose possession or destruction was most
important. At the time the city was fortified, General Lee was marching into
Pennsylvania, while the rebel forces were being massed along the frontier line of
West Virginia and Pennsylvania. An advance guard of rebel cavalry occupied
Morgantown, and another body of horse were sweeping up the valley be-
tween the ranges of the Allegheny mountains toward Bedford and Johnstown. A
force of rebels occupied McConnellsburg, and held the telegraph office there. By
these messages were exchanged with the operators of the Western Union Tele-
graph Company at Pittsburgh, in which the rebels stated their intention of
reaching the city, and were in turn informed of the preparations making to receive
them. A body of the cavalry advance, at Morgantown, had crossed the Cheat
river to proceed to Pittsburgh, which, by cross country roads, was less than a sharp
day's ride, when word was received by the leaders, through messengers sent by
spies, that the city was being strongly fortified. Upon which information they
retreated across the river, and finally fell back from Morgantown.

Had the result at Gettysburg been different, there is no doubt that Pittsburgh
would have been attacked. This is apparent from the forces which gathered at
Morgantown and the vicinity, and were concentrating at McConnellsburg and
that section.


Had the city been taken by the rebels, the result of the contest for the preserv-
ation of the Union might have been different. The East and the West would have
been severed.

Pittsburgh's position is one that admitted of being strongly fortified, and an
area enclosed tliat would amply support a large body of troops, while the Ohio
river gave facilities for fitting out armed flotillas to command the western waters.
Had it been captured, there is but little doubt the rebels would have endeavored
to have held the city. Its admirable facilities for the manufacture of munitions of
war; the opportunities of receiving supplies from Canada; its capability of being
strongly fortified ; a capability so great, that a Commission of U. S. Engineers,
who made an examination on this point in June, 1861, pronounced it the strongest
position they knew in the country ; its strategetical power as severing the West
and the East, and thus rendering diflScult the movement of troops between the two
sections, would all have made it important for the Confederates to have held the
city if possible ; and succeeding therein, caused, perhaps, a diflferent ending of the
civil war.

The fortifying of Pittsburgh was by many looked upon as a " Scare," and many
of her own citizens have been accustomed to so pronounce it. If it was a scare, it
was participated in by the government from a knowledge of the importance of the
place as a military supply point, as well as the gate between the East and the
West. It was a scare on the part of those Who knew the intentions of the rebels,
and of a few who were aware that the fall preceding the outbreak of the war, a
most thorough military and engineering reconnoisance was made, with ulterior ob-
jects, by a person in the interests of the Confederates, and that at the time of the
advance of Lee's army into Pennsylvania, this reconnoisance, with a map showing
all the details of the topography of Pittsburgh, was in the hands of the Confeder-
ate government.

The many minor and personal incidents connected with the history of Alle-
gheny county from 1861 to 1865, with the struggle for the preservation of the
Union, are too numerous for the scope of this volume and must be left for some
future biographical historian to collect. In these pages only the more important
events can be touched upon, as has been the rule of the sketch of earlier years.

On June first, 1864, was opened the great Sanitary Fair, which for weeks was
crowded by thousands on thousands of young and old, eager to contribute to the
fund to raise which the fair was projected. That effort was as glorious in its re-
sults as it was in its conception, and the object to which its profits were to be de-
voted. Like the story of " Pittsburgh soldier boys," the details of the Fair cannot
be entered into in this volume. It is sufficient here to record, that the amount of
money received from the Fair was $361,516.17. A portion of this patriotic fund
unexpended during the war was devoted to the endowment of the Western Penn-
sylvania Hospital, in the 12tli ward of the city. The sum of $203,119.57 was
handed over to the Board of Managers of the Pittsburgh Sanitary Soldiers Home^
in cash and other articles ; it being a stipulation of the gift that Pennsylvania "
soldiers sick or infirm should always be admitted for treatment free of charge.


There are many incidents connected with these outpourings of the patriotic
feeling of Allegheny county that might be narrated, and of personal service, but
it would be inviduous to mention any where so many gave time and money to
accomplish the end that was attained. The whole population joined in the work
of making the Fair a great pecuniary success. How much so is shown by the
fact that the receipts were equal to |3.47 for each man, woman and child in the
cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny.

To narrate all of the many incidents of personal sacrifice and individual labors
of men and women of Allegheny county during the war for the preservation of the
Union, would in themselves fill a volume of many pages. Collectively, many are
embraced more or less in the narrative of the leading events already given. To
select instances of invidual services would be unjust to others where none
whose sympathies were with the Union army did not in some way perform the
duty they were asked to discharge, or volunteer their services. Whatever dif-
ference of opinion on the conduct of the war might have existed, when the echoes
of the guns of Sumter startled the Nation, long before the rebel troops had in-
vaded the soil of Pennsylvania, the citizens of Allegheny county were a unit.

The brief sketch that has been here given of the more important incidents in
the county, connected with the war, during that period, are all that is required to
present historically in this volume, its action, its sentiments, and its attitude
through those years.

From 1865 to 1878.

With the close of the war Allegheny County became to a greater degree than
ever, active in the development of its resources. The call that had been made on
her manufacturers from 1861 to 1865, for almost every description of munitions of
war, had augmented greatly their capabilities, and brought thousands of skilled
workmen into its boundaries, and thus largely increased its population. The decade
from the close of the war, 1865 to 1875, while full of the personal and business
incidents consequent upon the continuous growth in population and manufacturing
development of the county, are chiefly interesting from a personal point of view.
They would be but a pre-recital of what is necessarily included in the statistical
matter of subsequent chapters.

From 1860 to 1870 the population of Allegheny county increased from 178,831
to 262,204. That of the cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny from 76,765 to
181,386. Among the more prominent minor occurrences of public interest, from
1860 to 1875, are the following:

The Allegheny county observatory which was founded in 1860, by the sub-
scriptions of individuals, through the exertions of Mr. T. Bradley, a building


erected and a large equatorial telescope was, from pecuniary difficulties, retarded
in its progress of usefulness until 1866, when a large sum was donated by William
Thaw, which, with the aid of others, freed the institution from debt, and furnished
the means of a partial endowment. In 1867, Prof. S. P. Langley, now of the
Smithsonian Institute at Washington, was invited to assume the office of director.
The equipment of this astronomical institution has been continually enlarged and
perfected until it is second to none in the country. In this scientific incident of
the history of Allegheny county, as in others, the pioneer spirit is again noticeable
in the organization of a national benefit. Previous to 1869 astronomical time had
been sent in occasional instances from American observatories.

In that year was inaugurated the " Allegheny system," which is believed to be
the first systematic and regular method of time distributed to railroads and cities.
In 1870 some forty-two railroads adopted the time of the Allegheny observatory,
and over the net work of railroads connecting the Atlantic and western States, all
trains are moved and all business carried on by the time primarily derived from a
single clock in the Allegheny Observatory. By the repeating instruments of the
telegraph line its beats are virtually audible at least once a day over a considerable
portion of the United States. In other words, throughout whatever section of the
country those forty-two railroads and their ramifications run, the business of the
nation is ordered by the beats of a clock in Allegheny county.

On August 13th, 1861, the American flag was ordered placed on a spire of the
Roman Catholic Cathedral by Bishop Domenic, of the diocese of Pittsburgh. In
the same year the Pittsburgh and Birmingham bridge was built.

On the 11th of February, 1863, the first twenty-inch gun ever made in the
world was cast at the Fort Pitt Foundry. From this foundry were shipped from
September 1st, 1862, to September, 1863, 7,173,534 pounds of cannon, and 2,972,916
pounds of shot and shell.

On January 1st, 1865, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Soldiers' Orphans' Home
was opened, and the Allegheny Home for the Friendless was started. On June
25th, 1866, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Orphan Asylum was opened. On June
29th St. Peter's Episcopal Church was dedicated, and on September 25th the
Episcopal Church Home was opened. On December 17th St. Patrick's Roman
Catholic Church was dedicated. In this year the Pennsylvania Railroad opened
the Union Depot ; the new Market-house in Allegheny City, and the Allegheny
City Hall were completed, and steam, for the first time in the world, applied to
the working of capstans, by Captain John McMillan, of Pittsburgh. In 1866 was
abolished the old time-honored custom of calling the hour by the night police.
This custom, originating in the "old countries," had been a custom of Pittsburgh
decades after its abolishment in other American cities.

On March 26th, 1867, the State Legislature passed an Act converting the com-
mon grounds of Allegheny City, which the "in-lot holders" of the property had
held as public pasturage ground, into that which is now the beautiful public
parks of that city.


On April 12th, 1867, was chartered the Monongahela Incline Plane, a railroad
a-unning nearly perpendicularly up the face of Mt. Washington, on the south side
■of the Monongahela, by which was inaugurated the movement that has made the
-tops of all the high hills that surround the city of Pittsburgh as available for pri-
vate residences as the more level portions of the city, and led to the building of
five or six similar roads, thereby largely increasing the available building area
without extension of territory.

On November 30 of this year was constructed the first locomotive ever built
in Allegheny City, and in this year the greatest plate of iron ever rolled in the
world up to that date was made in Pittsburgh, being 12 inches thick, 4^ feet wide,
and 12^ feet long.

On the 8th of August, 1868, was laid the foundation stone of the new City
Hall of Pittsburgh, which cost over $500,000 when completed in 1872.

On November 13th, 1868, the corner stone of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
was laid; work on the Allegheny County Work-house begun, and Etna bor-
ough incorporated.

On November 12th, 1869, the Old and New School Assemblies of the Presby-
terian Church convened at Pittsburgh, and were declared by their respective
moderators dissolved, after which they met together, and, uniting, held services in
commemoration of the reunion of the Presbyterians in the United States.

On October 11th, 1870, the negroes of Allegheny cast their first vote at the

On July 26th, 1874, the county, and especially the city of Allegheny, was
visited with a remarkable rain storm. The storm began about 8 p. m., accom-
panied by great electrical disturbances. The storm extended over an area of
sixteen miles from the north and south, and five miles from east to west. The
center of the storm culminated over and around Allegheny City, and was there
most destructive, the force of the water being more in the character of the bursting
of a water spout than ordinary shower. Houses were swept from their foundations,
iron bridges borne along on the torrents that filled the streets, sewers torn up, great
destruction wrought in the space of one hour, and one hundred and twenty four
persons were drowned.

The brief mention thus made of the prominent locally public incidents in the
county's history here grouped present, as do previous ones, the same character of
local enterprise and local public spirit, while the subsequent narrative of its
specific industries, to which the reader therein interested is referred, a period of
great development in its resources and manufacturing powers.

In 1877, the county suffered severe pecuniary loss, and detriment to its business
interests, by what is known as the "Railroad Riot," which arose as have all riots,
from the misguided actions of the working classes of the population, under the in-
fluence of hot headed or demagogical leaders. Several of these later riots and
their causes are noted in the chapters touching the industries among whose work-
ingmen they originated, but the riot of 1877, being of a more serious character and


really the culmination of threatening disturbances among the employees of rail-
roads in various sections of the country, finds its most fitting consideration in the
sketch of the county's general history. It was an occurrence that the pen hesitates
to review historically, the whole aflfair being an exhibition of not only inefiicient
management on the part of authorities, but also of mob violence being sympathis-
ed with by some individuals of the respectable classes, until such time as the events
showed that the public would be the suiFerer, not the corporation against whom
the actions of the mob were directed. The education of the public mind in that
direction had been going on in various sections of the country for quite a year^^
before the outbreak, and the riot at Pittsburgh was unfortunate for the city, being
the culmination there of the storm that had been brewing along the line of all
railroads fomented by the inconsiderate language of business men in commenting
on alleged discrimination and favoritism by railroad oflScials. Railroad discrimin-
ations being the theme dwelt upon to incite a feeling of hostility towards those
corporations. As far back as July 23rd, 1876, a Pittsburgh paper in publishing
an article headed, " Railroad Vultures " says, " Railroad officials are commencing^
to understand that the people of Pittsburgh will be patient no longer ; that this
community is being roused into action and that presently the torrent of indigna-
tion will give place to condign retribution;" and in another paragraph the same
paper says it, " desires to impress upon the minds of the community that these
vultures are constantly preying upon the wealth and resources of the country, they
are a class, as it were, of money jugglers intent only on practicing their trickery
for self aggrandizement and that, consequently, their greed leads them into all
known ways and byways of fraud, scheming and speculating to accomplish the
amassing of princely fortunes."

The province of history is not only to record bald facts, but in connection
therewith to give such collateral circumstances as lead up to the culmination of
events and enable posterity not merely to judge results but the motives from which
they arose. The foregoing extracts, as illustrative of the tone of some of the
public press utterances, show the condition of the mental atmosphere for a period
preceding the month of July, 1877, and, barometer-like, indicate a threatened
storm. They indicated an under current of public feeling, which, if not entirely
in sympathy with the incendiary utterances quoted, were at least tending in that
direction or they would not have been tolerated, and a repetition of them ventured
on from time to time, as they were. It must not be assumed, nor does it so appear,,
that such was the spirit of the entire press, but it was a sufficient public expression
to sow the seeds of vicious thoughts and for badly disposed demagogues to make
use of. Nor is it assumed that any large j)art of the community sympathised with
such a spirit, however much some individuals who may have felt aggrieved by
actual or supposed discrimination were influenced by or approved such suggestions^
however some, in moments of unreflecting irritation at what they believed to be
grievances, might for the time justify the publication of such paragraphs.


Be this as it may, they Avere the seeds from which Allegheny county reaped its
whirlwind, and as such are mentioned necessarily, in treating historically the riots
of 1877, that not only the effects of the storm be of record, but its inducing causes.

For some months preceding the riots of Pittsburgh disturbances among the
railroad employees, especially the engineers and brakemen of freight trains, had
been frequent on railroads east and west of Allegheny. These disturbances arose

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 11 of 43)