George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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Scully a member of the Society of Friends, who came from Bristol, England, and
landed at Chester, Pa., September 10th, 1665. The founder of the Gazette was a
son of Nicolas Scull, 2d. He was born 1765, and was but twenty-one years of age
when he came to Pittsburgh, in 1786. He was the first post naster of Pittsburgh,
and president of the second bank, (the Farmers Mechanic,) established at Pitts-
burgh; also one of the incorporators of the Western University of Pennsylvania.

It is of interest to note that the Gazette was printed on a Eamage press, brought
across the mountains by wagon. This press was so small that but one page of the
Gazette, about 10x16, could be printed at a time, taking, therefore, four impressions-
to produce a copy, and occupying about ten hours to produce seven hundred copies.
The contrast between then and now is strikingly illustrated by the press now ir*
use by the Gazette, wliich throws off 15,000 copies in one hoar.


The preceding accounts that have been given of the size and general charac-
teristics of the town, at the time Avhen Messrs, Scull and Hall determined on
publishing this first newspaper west of the mountains, were not such as, at the
present day, would offer inducements to embark in a newspaper business, as
according to " Niks Register,^' volume 3d,^age 436, there were but thirty six log
houses,. one stone, one frame, and five small stores. The county was as sparsely
settled as the town, and no mail routes.

Mr. Scull came to Pittsburgh with the purpose of establishing a paper as an
advocate of Washington and the Federal party. Considering the limited local
patronage that could be reasonably expected then from the vicinity, it is not an
unreasonable supposition that at that early day, as party virulence was as great as
now, the Gazette did not depend altogether on purely local support for its rev-
enues. The Gazette, however, prospered.

It is worthy of note that the first book published west of the mountains was
printed at the Gazette office, being the third volume of Judge H. H. Bracken-
ridge's " Modern Chivalry," issued in 1793. The first two volumes were printed
in Philadelphia. The last and fourth volumes not being published until 1797 at
Philadelphia, having been delayed by charges brought against its author relative
to his action in the " Whisky Insurrection." This book, a humorous and satirical
work, abounding with political and philosophical views, under the guise of pleas-
antry, was the cause of much bitter feeling between the Breckenridge and Craig
families, because of supposed resemblance of some of the characters to members
of the Craig family.

The publication of this paper, as has always been the case where newspapers
have been established in communities, soon began to have its influence in the
development of the town. The first of which was the establishment of a post or
mail from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Avhich "was done in the fall of 1786, John
Scull being appointed Postmaster. The duties could not have been very exacting,
as four years later the postages of the year ending Oct. 1st, 1790, were but $110.90.
John Scull retired from the publication of the Gazette in 1818, and died at his
residence, near what is now Irwin station, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, February
8th, 1828, aged sixty-three years. On Mr. Scull's retirement from the Go.zette, his
son, John Irvin Scull, succeeded in the control of the paper. He died in his
thirty-seventh year, at Brush Hill, Westmoreland county.

In 1786, despite the disparaging accounts the several persons previously
quoted have given of the social characteristics of the inhabitants of the town at
and previous to that date, there seems to have been inducements to have estab-
lished a school or seminary for young ladies. A Mrs. Pride, in an advertisement
in the Pittsburgh Gazette, dated November 10th, 1786, announces that she will
open a boarding and day school "in the house where John Gibbon formerly lived,
behind his stone house, where there will be taught the following branches of
needle-work." This was not the first school in Pittsburgh, however, as in Decem-
ber, 1764, James Kinney, a Quaker, writes in liis journal: "Many of ye inhab-


itants have hired a school-master and subscribed above sixty pounds for this year
for him. He has about twenty scholars. Ye soberer sort of people seem to long
for some public way of worship, so ye school-master reads the Litany and common
prayer on ye First Day."

In 1786-87 the Pittsburgh Acadeniy was chartered, which subsequently be-
came the Western University in 1819.

In 1786 the settlement of Elizabeth was made by Colonel Stephen Bayard,
who brought a company of ship-carpenters from Philadelphia and began the
building of vessels at that point two years later.

Previous to this, in October, 1785, Samuel Walker and Elizabeth Springer, his
wife, who had emigrated from Wilmington, Delaware, with their six children,
reached the west side of the Monongahela river at Macfarland's Ferry, within
half a mile of the Virginia Court House, two miles from the present town of
Elizabeth, and settled on the lands owned by Captain Henry Heth. It was at this
point that John Walker ferried across the river, from the east to the west side, the
whole of Morgan's army, sent in November, 1794, to suppress the Whisky Insur-

In 1787, September 27th, was incorporated the First Presbyterian Church of
Pittsburgh, a movement possibly quickened by " the longing of the soberer sort of
people for some public way of worship."

Previously, on September 24th, 1787, the Penn heirs deeded two and a half
lots of ground to the congregation, who at once proceeded to erect a building of
squared logs, the site being the same where now stands the beautiful stone build-
ing of the First Presbyterian Church. On the 1st of March of this year, at a
public meeting of citizens, Hugh Boss, Stephen Bayard and Rev. Samuel Barr
were appointed a committee to report a plan for establishing market days, and
they reported on March 12th, at an adjourned meeting.

Soon after this the first market-house in Pittsburgh was built near the corner
of Market and Second streets.

From 1788 to 1794

On the 24th of September, 1788, Allegheny County was organized, being taken
from Westmoreland County. In 1789 a small addition was made from Washington
County. It then comprised all the territory north and west of the Ohio and
Allegheny from what was taken by Act of March 12th, 1800, Beaver, Butltr and
Mercer Counties. Previous to September 24th, 1788, the area now embraced in
tiie bounds of Allegheny were, as before stated, in Westmoreland County, and the
county seat was at Hannahtown, thirty miles distant from Pittsburgh. This


caused much dissatisfaction to the inhabitants at and around Pittsburgh, resulting
in the County of Allegheny being set ofl' from Westmoreland and Washington

By the Act Pittsburgh was made the seat of justice temporarily until trustees,
who were named in the Act, should construct suitable public buildings on the re-
served tract opposite Pittsburgh, on the public square in the town of Allegheny.
This town was ordered to be laid out by the Supreme Executive Committee of the
.Commonwealth September 11th, 1787. This project of locating the county seat
in Allegheny town was so strongly opposed by the citizens of Pittsburgh that in
the spring of 1788 a supplementary Act was passed, authorizing the trustees to
purchase ground on the Pittsburgh side of the river for public buildings, which
was done.

The trustees selected the Diamond Square, where the market-house now
stands, for the site of the court-house and jail.

There seemed to be some reason for the opposition of the citizens of Pittsburgh
to the location of the public buildings of the county on the north side of the
river, in the uninviting topography of the land there, as the following extract
from a report of D. Redick, dated February 19th, 1788, to the Supreme Executive
Committee, would indicate : " I went with several gentlemen to fix on a spot for
laying out the town opposite Pittsburgh, and at the same time took a general view
of the tract, and find it far inferior to my expectations, although I had thought I
had been no stranger to it. There is some pretty low ground on the rivers Ohio
and Allegheny, but there is but a small portion of dry land which appears in
any way suitable either for timber or soil, but especially for soil ; it abounds in
high hills and deep hollows, almost inaccessible to a surveyor. I am of the
opinion that if the inhabitants of the moon are capable of seeing the same ad-
vantages from the earth which we do from that world, I say if it is so, this same
famed tract of land would offer a variety of beautiful lunar spots not unworthy
the eye of a philosopher. I cannot think that ten-acre lots on such pits and hills
will possibly meet with a purchaser, unless, like a pig in a poke, it be kept from

Mr. Eeddick seems to have considered it rather a joke that any one could have
supposed the area where Allegheny City, with its 100,000 population, now stands,
could ever be available for a town.

His opinion of his own judgment now, could he revisit the " glimpse of the
moon," and survey the pits and hills, would probably be as poor as it was in 1788
of the reserve tract on which he was selected to lay out the town of Allegheny,

Arthur Lee, previously quoted, who, in 1784, wrote in his journal of Pitts-
burgh, " I believe the place will never be considerable," and Mr. Reddick seem,
from their recorded opinion, to have been twins in their judgment. To the con-
trary, the opinions of two oiher persons are quoted here. In a volume printed at
Dublin, Ireland, 1789, the author writes: "Pittsburgh is a neat, handsome town,
containing about four hundred houses. ^ ^" * It is expected the town will, in a


fev: years, become the emporium of the western country.'" A writer in the Pittsburgh
Gazette, of August, 1789, writing of the cost of the carriage of goods, says : "How-
ever important tlie conveyance may be, and by whatever channel, the importation
of heavy articles will still be expensive; the manufacturing of them, therefore,
icill become more of an object here than elseivhereP In the previous year another
glimpse of Pittsburgh is caught from the journal of Dr. Hildreth, who arrived at
the town on a boat called the "Mayflower," with a company of four hundred emi-
grants from New England, in progress to Marietta, Ohio.

After giving a statement of the starting of the "Mayflower" from Robbstown,
now West Newton, and the passage down the Youghiogheny and Monongahela,
Dr. Hildreth writes : " Pittsburgh contains from four to five hundred inhabitants,
several retail stores, and a small garrison of troops kept in old Fort Pitt. To our
travelers, who had lately seen nothing but trees and rocks, with here and there a
solitary hut ; it seemed quite a large town. The houses are chiefly built of logs,
but now and then one has assumed the appearance of neatness and comfort."

While from the verbal pictures of Fort Pitt, or Pittsburgh, at that early day
by Lee, W^ilkens and others, the impression is made that the social surroundings
of the town were of a very bad type, even for a frontier town, yet as there were two
sides to the famous shield of legendary dispute, one black and the other silver, so
it was with the social elements of Pittsburgh. The various armies of Forbes,
Stanwix and Boquet, had many educated and polished gentlemen, as well as the
detachments of the Federal troops, who were garrisoned at longer or shorter
periods at Fort Pitt ; and some were accompanied by their families, by whom the
habits and elegancies of society were practiced in their social intercourse and their
hospitalities to travellers. Especially after the Revolutionary war a number of
families of high culture, those of officers of the Federal army and members of
the bar in eastern counties were attracted to Pittsburgh, and formed the nucleus of
a coterie which was naturally not without its aristocratic coloring and, conse-
quently, social atmosphere. For although a revolution had been made against
the government of Great Britain, it Avas not, in its inception, with a view of estab-
lishing a democracy in the sense the word is now popularly construed, but simply
a government, independent of Great Britain, which might have become, under
certain mouldings, anotlier monarchy.

The writings and history of the times are not without indications that the
Republican form of government was the second sober thought of the people, and
not without its opposers.

Fort Pitt had, through the period from 1754 up to 1788, also become a center to
which had drifted adventurers of all types, Indian traders, hunters, trappers, scouts,
desperate men of various nationalities, the followers of the various armies, either
French, English or Federal, with an admixture of half breeds. The society of
Pittsburgh was thus strongly marked with a dividing line, where on the one half,
all the coarseness, wickedness, and illiteracy of the mixed elements of nationalities
were, and on tlie other, mental culture, good breeding, and aristocratic tendencies.


Personal habits and social customs, even in what may be called the higher class of
society in the frontier town, were looser and freer than grew to be the custom, and
naturally gave still greater license and coarseness to the inhabitants of a lower
grade of training. These latter would seem to have been the populace, from
which the character of the town was judged, for the reason that to the social
amenities of the better class, as instanced, a casual traveller making a brief stay
would, probably, have but little admission. H. H. Breckenbridge, in his " Recol-
lections " says there was at Pittsburgh in that early day, " a degree of refinement,,
elegance of manners, and polished society not often found in a frontier town. The
Butlers, the O'Haras, the Craigs, the Kirkpatricks, the Stevensons, the Wilkins,.
and the Nevilles are names that will long be handed down by tradition. Colonel
Neville was indeed the model of a perfect gentleman — as elegant in his persoii
and finished in his manners and education as he was noble and generous in hi&
feelings. He was, during the Revolution, an aid to General Lafayette, and at the
close of it married an elegant and accomplished lady, the daughter of the cele-
brated General Morgan."

This is quite a reverse picture to that sketched by Arthur Lee at the close of
1784, where he says, "the town' is inhabited almost entirely by Irish and Scots^
who live in paltry log houses, and are as dirty as in the north of Ireland, or even

As Mr. Lee makes no remarks as to the class of inhabitants of whom Mr.
Breckenridge makes mention, some of whom were residents of the town at the
time of Mr. Lee's visit, it is evident that he was not a partaker of their hospitali-
ties, and it is presumable that the little town of Pittsburgh, while its houses were
perforce built of logs, contained a large number of people who would have shone
even in the society of the present day.

It would seem, however, that there was a similarity in the society of the towrt
then to peculiarities of society most anywhere at the present day, as the Gazette
of March 27th, 1789, says: "The usual drawback on the happiness of a village
society (scandal) has begun to show itself, as there is no regular clergyman settled
in the town to prevent it." It must, therefore, be concluded that Pittsburgh was-
in its early days neither better nor worse, so far as its population was concerned,,
than any similar aggregation of population of those times, and that its descend-
ants from its old families can be proud of their ancestry, even if the male portion
did, at times, take a cup too much wine or whisky, bet high on horse races, en-
courage the selling of lottery tickets to raise revenues for church purposes, and
sundry and several other departures from the strict codes of morality, under the
somewhat looser habits of life, the freedom and the custom of the times tacitly
excused in "gentlemen "

With the organization of the county in 1788 the town, as a county seat, be-
came, naturally, more of a center of population, and began to show faint tracings
of the features of its maturer years.


Most of the minor incidents of those early days, being more of a personal
Character than partaking of general public importance or interest, have perished,
] aving had no record save in the memories of the actors in the scenes of a hun-
dred years since.

As to give in a condensed historical form the local developments of Allegheny
County's Hundred Years is the object of the volume, rather than a recollection of
individual reminiscences still to be gleaned from fading memories, such occurrences
only are mentioned as illustrate the county's growth, and are of greater or less pub-
lic interest abroad as well as at home. The great manufacturing interest of the
<!Ounty, as better exhibiting their massiveness, and a more compact view of their
■developments than if scattered through the chronological details of these pages,
are presented in separate chapters.

In 1792 Pittsburgh was the point of organization of General Wayne's (Mad
Anthony) expedition to the nortli-west territory, and liis troops departed from the
town on the 27th of December of that year. All through the previous summer
Pittsburgh had been a camp of instruction. After leaving Fort Pitt General
Wayne encamped for tlie winter seven miles above the mouth of Beaver creek.
Wayne's expedition belongs to the military history of the north-western territory,
Tather than to Allegheny County, and is mentioned in connection with its history
because of its being the point of preparation for the expedition.

At this time Allegheny County became in part the scene of the occurrences of
-a revolt against the Federal government, which was viewed with much apprehen-
sion by the authorities of the nation. The Federal government was but newly
organized, and its powers and rights were but little understood.

As early as 1756 the Province of Pennsylvania had looked to an excise on
spirits for revenue. During the revolution the law was in the west generally
evaded, and after being for years a dead letter was repealed. When the debts of
the revolution became pressing, Congress, on March 3d, 1791, passed a similar law.
Opposition was at once begun in the western counties. The inhabitants of that
region, descended from the people of Korth P^ritain or Scotland and Ireland, had
come very honestly by their love of whisky and their hatred of an excise man,
Tlie insurgents were following, as they believed, the same right under which the
colonies had revolted from England, and made j)rotest against and resistance to an
oppressive excise law or tax. At that day there was nothing disreputable in mak-
ing whisky or in drinking it. Distilling was then considered as moral and respect-
able as any other business. There was neither home nor foreign market for. rye>
their principal crop. The grain would not bear transportation by pack-horses
across the mountains. Four bushels was a load for a horse, but he could carry in
the form of whisky twenty -four bushels. To pay for iron and salt and sugar the
farmers of Western Pennsylvania sent their whisky on pack-horses over the
•mountains. The people had for years, at the peril of their lives, cultivated the
.ground on which their rye was grown with but little or no protection from the
government. The law laid a tax of four pence per gallon on distilled spirits.


The people looked upon this law as unjust taxation and as restraining them from
doing what they pleased with any surplus rye they might raise. The members of
Congress from Western Pennsylvania firmly opposed the law. Smily, of Fayette,
and Findley, of Westmoreland, openly condemned it. Even Albert Gallitin, then
a resident of Fayette county, opposed the law by all constitutional means. It was
difficult to obtain any one who would accept the office of collector of the tax. To
quiet the opposition General John Neville, then residing a short distance from
Pittsburgh, was prevailed upon to accept the office. He was a man of great per-
sonal popularity, possessing much wealth, and had put his all on the hazzard of
the revolution for independence. At his own expense he raised and equiped a
company of soldiers, marched them to Boston, and placed them, with his son, un-
der the command of General Washington. He was brother-in-law to General
Morgan and father-in-law to Majors Craig and Kirkpatrick, who were highly re-
spected throughout the western country. If any coidd enforce the odious law he,
it was thought, could.

The public mind was, however, too highly inflamed to be soothed even under
the representations of as popular a man as General Neville. The first public
meeting was held at Bedstone Old Fort, now Brownsville, on July 27th, 1791.
On September 7 delegates from the four counties met at Pittsburgh and passed
resolutions against the law. On the 6th of September a party waylaid a collector
for Allegheny and Washington and tarred and feathered him. In October a
person of w^eak intellect, named Wilson, who affected to be an excise man, was
tarred and feathered and burned with hot irons. On the 15th of September the
President issued a proclamation enjoining all persons to submit to the law and
desist from unlawful proceedings. In April, 1793, a party in disguise attacked at
night the house of Benj. Wells, a collector of Fayette County. On the 22d of
November they again attacked his house^ and compelled him to surrender his
commission and books, and to resign his office. In July, 1794, many other out-
rages were committed, houses and stills burned. Also in June several serious riots
occurred, in which collectors of excise were maltreated in various ways. During
these turmoils a term had come into popular use, to designate the opponents to the
excise laws, wlio were called "Tom Tinkers" men. The first application of the
term is stated to have originated at the destruction of a still, which was cut to
pieces. This was called mending the still, and humorously the members must be
of course, called "Tinkei's," and thus "Tom Tinkers" men. The term is said to
have originated with one John Holcroft, who was one of the chief leaders of the
insurrection, and understood to be the person called " Tom the Tinker." All the
proclamations of the insurgents were signed with that designation. "Tom the
Tinker" was the pseudonyme used either by Holcroft or an attorney called Daniel
Bradford, who was admitted to the Bar of Allegheny County in 1788, who seems
to have been, during part of the insurrection, the chief or general, while Holcroft
seems to have been second in command. Although the law was modified by Con-
gress in 1694, it was still odious. The consequence was that the disturbances still


increased, and on the 16th of July the house of General Neville, seven miles
riouthwest of Pittsburgh, was attacked and burned, several persons being killed
and wounded. Various meetings of the insurgents were held at different places,
and in July, 1794, a large number of men assembled at Braddocks, to the amount,
it is said, of 7,000 men, many in organized companies under arms, for the purpose
of attacking Pittsburgh. The insurrectionary feeling had now reached its height*
A word in favor of the law was ruin to any one. On the contrary, to talk
against the law was the way to office and personal popularity and profit. At
the assemblage at Braddocks, when it was proposed by David Bradford, who was
present as major general, in full uniform, that the troops should go to Pitts-
burgh, Hugh M. Breckenridge, who had joined the movement to control, and, if
possible, quell it by diplomacy, and in whose writings a full account of the whole
matter is to be found, said : " Yes, by all means, at least give proof that the
strictest order can be maintained, and no damage done. We will just march
through the town and take a turn, come out on the plain on the banks of the
Monongahela, and after taking a little whisky with the inhabitants, the troops
will embark and cross the river." This was accomplished, and no damage but
the burning of one barn done. "The people," says Mr. Breckenridge, "were
mad. It never came into my head to use force on the occasion; I thought it

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 4 of 43)