George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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used in the city and manufactures has largely increased. The supply is augment-
ed by receipts from the western counties of Pennsylvania, through which runs the
Pennsylvania Kailroad, also from the lakes.

The lumber trade strictly is that of the dealers in lumber as brought to the
city in railroad cars, and so sold or disposed of in the wholesale lumber yards T
also that used and sold in the saw-mill and planingmill products and in the
cooperages. The consumption of timber or wood as used in the furniture manu-
factories, the carriage and wagon factories, etc., are embraced in the mention of
those industries. It has been diflBcult to classify the dealers in the various
branches of this business. There are four wholesale dealers by car lots, who
handle about 55,000,000 feet of pine and hard woods a year. There are twenty-
one firms who sell from yards about 70,000,000 feet, of a value of $1,500,000, and
two firms selling 6,000,000 staves. There are also twenty -three planing-mills, who
use 40,000,000 feet of pine lumber, producing sash and doors, flooring and boxes,,
worth about $800,000. There are thirty cooperages in the city, the product being
about 700,000 barrels, besides large quantities of nail and white lead kegs. It is^
estimated that the entire receipts of lumber is 150,000,000 feet, and the total
value of the lumber trade rising at $4,000,000.


From Pack Horse to Rail Roads.

A panoramic painting of the growth of transportation facilities from the date
at which the county of Allegheny was organized would be one illustrative of the
whole progress of civilization on the western continent. Its story to be told in all
its fullness of incident, anecdote and biography would make in itself a volume.
It would be an allegory of the Ohio river, around whose headwaters Allegheny
county stands, finding its beginnings in the mountain streams and rivers, growing
stronger and broader as its feeding creeks and forming rivers unite, until it sweeps
on the great current which has been so large a factor in tlie development of the
West and in the growth of Allegheny county.

The full history in the growth of transportation facilities, as they are integral
factors in the growth of Allegheny county, would, if narrated in aU the detail of
personal biography, public action, financial negotiations, mechanical achievements
and engineering skill, make chapters instead of pages, into which it must in this
volume be condensed. As thought reaches back into the years of more than a
century ago, it contemplates the solitary trapper bearing his little pack of peltry
to the settlements to exchange for his few needed supplies, following the course
of the mountain streams, of the valleys and gorges, along which now rush and
roar the locomotive and its lengthy train of cars, or, returning again to the wilder-
ness, with heavier burdens, if perchance more compact, seeking easier paths.
They were the explorers of the most valuable routes and easiest grades for path-
ways between the east and the west. In their footsteps followed the heavier
ladened pack horse, and along the same route the emigrant's white-topped wagon,
and practically the turnpikes and their ponderous "Conestoga wagons," the stage
coach, and ultimately, in general, the iron ways of railroad transportation.

The pack horse was the pioneer in transportations for general demands of com-
merce. Although it may readily be supposed that individuals may have utilized
"old grey Dobbin," or some other trusty family equine, to carry the scanty house-
hold equipments in their emigration westward, yet pack horse lines were the first
regular system of public transportation.

From them the carrier system of transportation increased and became an im-
portant element in the commerce between the east and the west. It was no
uncommon sight, previous to 1790, to see at Mercersburg, in Franklin county, and
other points in Pennsylvania, and Hagerstown and other towns in West Virginia
from 50 to 100 pack horses in a row taking on their loads of salt and iron and
other commodities for the Monongahela country. Each horse carried about 200
pounds of merchandise, and two men were required to take charge of a file which
consisted of from ten to fifteen horses, tied " head and tail " as it was called. One
man taking charge of the lead horse the other keeping an eye on the adjustments
of the load and urging the speed of any of the horses that showed an indisposition



to keep step with the rest. A. H. Reed, in the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette of
July 29th, 1886, the number commemorative of the centennial of that paper, in a
sketch of the progress of overland transportation, writes :

"In 1760, Carlisle was the most advanced post of the State. Loading their
pack horses with blankets, whisky and powder, the Indian traders climbed the
gloomy Alleghenies to the little known region beyond. It was no easy thing to
make progress along the narrow trails. Newly-fallen trees continually blocked
the way, and the boughs of the overshadowing forest eternally switched the trav-
eler in the face. By 1770 the footpaths had become broader, smoother, and harder.
The click of the iron-shod pack horse had grown familiar to the wilderness. The
forest in places had shrunk back from the bridle-path, and a cabin nestled in an
occasional clearing. Other paths were cut out. The tide of western immigration
set in. Long trains of pack horses loaded with stores and agricultural implements,
with furniture and cooking utensils, moved towards the setting sun. The chatter
and laughter of white children were mingled with the gruff voices of the pack
traders. In the year 1790 there were only six freight wagons engaged in hauling
goods to Pittsburgh from over the mountains. Groceries, liquor, salt, iron, etc., all
entered the town on the backs of horses. Eastern merchandise was hauled by
wagon as far west as Shippensburg or Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania, and as far
as Winchester, in Virginia, and from there packed the remainder of the journey.
On the return trip from Pittsburgh the horses were loaded with furs, skins, and
ginseng. A pack train numbered between ten and twenty-five horses. When two
trains going opposite ways met in the narrow paths of the mountains there was
always trouble in passing and accidents were frequent. Up to 1796 all the salt
used in this region was packed across the mountains."

The date mentioned by Mr. Heed in the foregoing extract may be assumed as
about the time when the famous Conestoga wagon came into active operation, as
the transportation facility of that period. John Hayden, however, of Fayette
county, in 1789, drove the first wagon load of goods over the southern route as it was
called. He drove four horses hauling about one ton and was nearly a month
making the trip to and fro from Hagerstown, Md., a distance of 140 miles, receiv-
ing $3.00 per hundred for the freight charges from Jacob Bowman, of Brownsville,
for whom the goods were. From that date until the advent of railroads into Alle-
gheny county the Conestoga wagon was a factor in commercial transportations and
a familiar and picturesque feature in roadway landscapes.

What the '' Mike Finks" were on the western waters the Conestoga wagoners
were on the mountain roads, a hardy, jovial class of men, muscular and learned in
horses, and the dangers of steep hill grades and "sidling" mountain roads. There
were favorite " inns " along the turnpike between Pittsburgh and Chambersburg,
to reach which they were wont to drive hard and long, for their night's rest.
They were a "sun up," "sun down" class of toilers, except of moonlight summer
nights, when they would prolong as far into the evening as was judicious for their
horses to haul. Those roadside taverns were the scene of many a frolic, and woe
betide the transient travellers who became involved, at such times, in a dispute
with a gathering of Conestoga wagoners. Honest and reliable, if at times a little
given to a frolic, the merchandise in their charge was faithfully delivered, despite
the temptation of lonely roads, dark nights and convenient precipices to divide


■with a confederate. There was not a " haunted hollow " or a scene of Indian war-
fare along the line of which they had not a tale to tell. While the long pleasant
summer days had for them its delights among the mountain gorges and in the
winding roads along the hill tops, the storms of winter brought its dangers and its
hardships in their heavy snows and icy roads, down whose steep descent it was
often perilous to drive. The race of wagoners is gone with many another peculi-
arity of earlier days, and left less trace of their existence, as a class, than even the
flat-boat men of the Ohio. T. B. Read the poet, and author of Sheridan's Ride,
lias honored them in a lengthy poem entitled " The Wagoner of the Alleghenies."
Among their favorite places of rendevous in Allegheny county was the old Eagle
Hotel on Liberty street, Pittsburgh, at one time kept by John McMasters and
afterwards by Wm. Lerimer, Jr., where the Seventh Avenue Hotel now stands.
In the rear of this tavern was a very large yard, in which at times fifty or sixty of
these immense wagons would be corraled, and the sitting and bar rooms of the tav-
ern filled with wagoners. There was another tavern on Liberty street at the
head of Tenth street also much frequented by them.

While to a considerable extent the number of Conestoga wagons decreased on
the opening of the canal, they continued in use until the opening of the Pennsyl-
vania railroad, when, their occupation gone, they disappeared from the turnpike?,
and their honest rugged drivers vanished from city life, seeking some favorite
country village homes and employment. There for many years after an occasional
survivor could be found. A pensioner of some once well patronized roadside inn,
telling around the fires at nights or on the bench before the door on summer after-
noons, tales of fearful runaways of six horse teams in winter down the icy moun-
tain roads, of strange sights seen in the dusk of evenings in haunted spots, and
isolated taverns, which solitary travelers had entered at night fall to be seen no

With the opening of the Pennsylvania canal before whose increased powers of
transportation the Conestoga wagon gradually passed away, and the third condi-
tion of transportation facilities arose.

On March 27th, 1824, an Act was passed by the legislature of Pennsylvania,
authorizing a board of three commissioners to examine routes for a proposed canal.
On April 25th, 1824, a further act was passed providing for a board of five com-
missioners. Wm. Darlington, Robert Patterson, John Sergeant, David Scott, and
Abner Lacock were appointed by the Governor, to report on the subject.

The committee reported favorably, and on the 25th of February, 1826, the
Legislature passed an Act "to provide for the commencement of the canal, to be
constructed at the expense of the State and to be styled the Pennsylvania Canal."
This Act authorized the construction of a canal, from the mouth of the Swatara on
the Susquehanna to a point opposite the mouth of the Juniata, and from Pittsburgh
up the Allegheny to the Kiskiminitas. On April 9th, 1827, an Act was passed
authorizing the extension from the Juniata to Lewistown, and from the mouth of
the Kiskiminitas to Blairsville.


An Act of March 28th, 1828, authorized the extension of the canal from Lewrsi»
town to the highest desirable point of the Juniata to the mouth of the Swatara^.
and from Blairsville to the highest desirable point of the Conemaugh, and also-
the construction of a railroad over the Alleghenies. During the summer of 1827^
the Allegheny, Pine Creek, Lower Kiskiminitas, and Conemaugh lines were put
under contract. In 1828, the Upper Kiskiminitas, Conemaugh, and Lower Ligo-
nier lines were placed in contractor's hands. During 1829-30, the Upper Ligo-
nier line through Johnstown was contracted for, and in April and August, 1831, the
Allegheny portage railway and the completion of the railway to Holidaysburg
was put under contract.

In May, 1833, the contracts for the stationary engines for the incline planes-
were contracted for, and in 1834 the whole system from Pittsburgh to Philadel-
phia was completed and ready for business.

Of this State enterprise, other than its local history in Allegheny county, these
pages are not called to make note. It was a great incentive to the commerce of
Allegheny county and brought into being a new class of business firms, technically
termed "transporters," men with capital, good executive abilities and untiring en-
ergy and industry. For the labor involved in the loading and dispatching of the
boats east and the distribution of the cargoes brought west, or their reshipmenfe
down the Ohio river required rapid and accurate work. Those were the days
when draymen were an important class of citizens in Pittsburgh. Hundreds of
drays were employed in the transportation of merchandise between the river and
the canal. Many of the draymen owned their owai drays and employed subordi-
nates while the leading transportation companies had theirs.

No public procession of the period was complete without its turnout of dray-
men, mounted on their dray horses, sometimes in white frocks and again with simple
badges. The canal had been constructed with a tunnel through the city undey
the eastern slope of Grant's hill, beginning near the corner of Seventh and Grant
streets, running in a south-westerly course, and passing under the church now at
the corner of Sixth avenue and Fifth avenue debouchingfon the Monongahela
river near Try street, part of which is now used by the St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and
Chicago Railroad in passing through Pittsburgh. Another branch extended
through Allegheny City along the line of Lacock street, and terminated at the
Allegheny river near Balkam street. These branches were^intended to facilitate
the transportation of cargoes to steamboats on the river, but were little used the
greater proportion being transferred by drays. The chief point of congregation of
the canal boats was at what was called the " Basin," now the intersection of Penn
avenue and Eleventh street. Short lateral branches running from it in several di-
rections to facilitate the boats mooring along side the warehouses of the transpor-
tation companies, which M^ere immense wooden sheds. The canal crossed the Alle-
gheny river on an aqueduct. At that time engineering was in its infancy, and
when Nathan S. Eoberts proposed to carry the water of the canal over the river
by an aqueduct, with one hundred feet span, it was such a bold and novel proposi-
tion that the canal board refused to consider it.


Verily the world moves. It is now proposed by a Pittsburgh engineer to con-
struct a bridge across the Hudson, with a span of 3,000 feet, and the bridge build-
ing establishments of the city have constructed many bridges across rivers with
from 500 to 1,000 feet spans. However, the acqueduct was built and in its working
was all it was contemplated it would be, and the basin as it was locally called became
^ crowded and busy place. There were some famous canal transportation lines
organized, and men who have since become famous themselves were their origina-
tors and controllers. Among them was the " Union Line," (Samuel Eea, Henry
Graff, and others,) " Clark & Thaw's Lines," (Will-am Thaw, Thomas S. Clark,)
"Kier & Jones' Lines," (Samuel Kier, B. F. Jones,) "The O'Connor Line," (Luke
Taafe, James O'Connor.) The lines worked by Wm. Bingham & Co., (Wm. Bing-
ham, who, with his whole family were afterwards lost at sea, the vessel on which
they sailed having never been heard from after leaving port.) " Leech & Co.'s
Lines," in which Geo. Black and Henry S. Lloyd, afterwards proprietors of the
Kensington Rolling Mill, were clerks. Many others of the young men of that
day who have since become Pittsburgh's most able business men, obtained their
business training in the canal line offices. There was no idle time about the basin
in those days except in the winter months, when the water was let out of the
canal, and lessons of promptness, application and correctness were learned there,
that bore good fruit in after years. During the years of its existence the Penn-
sylvania Canal was the great connecting link between the sea board and the
western rivers. It was open to all who choose to run boats and pay the lockage.

Each boat or company employed its own men and paid its own tolls, and as
quick delivery was a recommendation of the line but little time was lost in either
loading, unloading, or towing the boats. The captain who could make the quick-
-est trip was most in demand by the companies. Fifteen days was the usual time.
The freight boats were drawn by three mules which were changed about every
eight miles, and boats were run or laid up on Sundays as accorded with the owners
views. Passenger boats were also run making the trip in three days. They were
drawn by horses, and as there were several lines a race was not unfrequent on the
long reaches, sometimes of several miles, in the pools were the small streams had
been taken advantage of by damming. In this gentle excitement, for it was neither
very dangerous or very rapid sport, the passengers participated, feeing the drivers
to encite them in their efforts to keep ahead of the rival boat.

The passenger boats all started from what is now the corner of Penn avenue
•and Eleventh street, and it was in the summer months a favorite trip. The boats
were internally arranged somewhat on the principal of the sleeping car of to-day,
with adjustable berths for sleeping at nights, and through the day the cabin, which
extended the full length of the boat, became a handsome parlor. The long flat
deck of the boat made a fine promenade and was the favorite gathering place of
the passengers in the cool of the morning and of the evening for a smoke, a chat»
a song, and sometimes a dance. All felt it a courtesy to contribute to the enjoy-
jment of the whole company. It was a leisurely, pleasant three days' trip, and on


moonlight nights with the boat gliding quietly along the still waters, through the
shadows of the forest and hillside or amid the bright moonlight, that mode of
travelling had a charm peculiarly its own. It was the custom where the canal
made a long curve or bend for the helmsman to land the boat and allow the pas-
sengers to get Oil for a walk across the mountain or hill, round which the canal
wound, meeting them on the other side. Those were pleasant rambles, and many
a laughable adventure was had in the scrambles over rocks and through thickets^
and acquaintanceships thus made that ripened into companionships that lasted
through life. The leisurely progress of a canal boat would not suit the impatient
fret of the travelers of to-day, who cannot wait until the railway car stops at the
station before they begin to get off, no matter how persistenly the courteous con-
ductor repeats, " Passengers will please remain seated until the train stops."

There are, however, no doubt, many in Allegheny county who recall the pleas-
ant days on the old Pennsylvania Canal would like to enjoy a three day canal trip
once more. The captains of these boats were gentlemen in manner, and their own
crews well behaved and courteous, but the crews of the freight boats were often
cast in a rougher mold. Writing of this A. H. Keed, from whom an extract has-
previously been made, says, mentioning peculiar names of canal boats :

" The names were sometimes very amusing. Pat Collins once ran a boat on?
the Middle division that he called the Lightning Fanny. The Fanny part was.
the name of his girl. The Lightning part was hitched on because he once made
a trip with his boat that beat the record. Collins didn't marry Fanny, though, but
hitched himself for life to a soap-maker's widow. Then he changed the name of
his boat to the Gliding Jane, after the widow. The cooks were the ornaments of
the canal boats. They were usually big, fat, good natured Irish women. One of
the boats used to have printed on its stern : * Beauty and the Beast, Beauty missed
the boat, but the cook's aboard.' Another boat, called the Spirit of the Spray, wa&
marked with the legend : ' Four precious souls and one cook aboard.'

" The Bard of Erin was another boat that had a whack at the cook. The
canallers always roared when they read just below the Bard's name the following ::
* Capacity of boat 120 tons, capacity of cook, 2 quarts.'

"The canallers were hard drinkers; they always took three fingers of liquor
and sometimes the thumb. Still, a toast that was popular was :
"Here's to glorious cold water,
We couldn't run the boat without her."

In 1857 the canal was sold by the State to the Pennsylvania Kailroad Company..
It is a question that has often been discussed as to whether this was not a legisla-
tive mistake ; whether its enlargement, as was the policy of New York with its canal,,
would not have been better. Be that as it may, the railroad abolished the canal as
they did the stage coach. Before the beginning of the century there were no stage
lines. Traveling was done by private conveyance or on horseback. In 1805 the first
stage line between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia was started. The vehicles were-
covered Jersey wagons with springs. In summer the passengers were covered
with dust, and in winter half frozen, and the use of them was attended with
much discomfort. Passengers were frequently obliged to walk up hill, and occa-
sionally helped pry the coach out of the mud with a fence rail. With the increase


of population the stage coach of some fifty years since came into use with its com-
fortable cushioned seats, its team of four fast horses, changed every ten miles, and
its smart drivers. The roads had been improved to good turnpikes, and in 1820
the trip was made to Philadelphia in fifty hours, for which the price of a ticket
was seventeen dollars.

There were several lines that ran out of Pittsburgh over the northern route to
the upper counties of the State, over the Greensburg route to Philadelphia and
the Somerset route to Cumberland and Baltimore.

As with the canal boat, there are pleasant remembrances of a three or four
days' trip in a coach, although they had more discomforts than the boat. In the
spring, summer and early autumn it was a delightful drive for those who could
take occasional naps in the coach as it sped along. In the winter all travelers
provided themselves with buffalo overshoes and robes, and with nine in a coach
managed to make themselves cosy. The travel made it profitable to establish
taverns along the route, where plentiful meals were served plainly cooked, but
delicious in their cleanliness, and enjoyable from being served by the landlord's
cheerful wife or laughing daughters. The seat wiih the driver on the top after
the meal, for a smoke, was an envied privilege. The companionship into which
the close packing of the nine seats inside the coach afforded brought out all the
geniality of the several passengers, and humorous remarks, laughable stories, and
often interesting talks on a wide range of subjects, for frequently eminent men
were companion travelers. Then, as on the canal boats, rival lines incited races,
either for the sport or to reach some desirable stopping place first. On such occa-
sions "shad scales," as silver quarter dollars were called, rejoiced the drivers'
hearts and replenished their pockets, a reward for skillful driving. Under these
incentives the horses were urged to their utmost speed, and the drive, although at
times verging on danger from the speed with which the coach was rushed down
long hills, full of exhileration.

The old stage coach times are days full of pleasant recollections to those
who were travelers then, but as with the canal the railroad ended them, and with
it came the fourth period of the overland transportation facilities of Allegheny

In 1848 was begun the Pittsburgh & Ohio Eailroad, now the Pittsburgh, Fort
"Wayne & Chicago, which was finished to Beaver in July, 1851, and thence there-
after westward. In 1851 the Pittsburgh & Cleveland and Pittsburgh & Steuben-
ville, now part of the St. Louis, Pittsburgh & Chicago Railroad, were organized.
In 1852 the Pennsylvania Eailroad was opened for travel from Pittsburgh to

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 33 of 43)