George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

. (page 6 of 43)
Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 6 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


miles, ores for Pittsburgh furnaces are now brought from Lake Michigan and
other equally long distances, and even from parts of Europe and Africa. Tlirough
the decade from 1790 to 1800 Pittsburgh seems to have been gradually accreting



EARLY HISTORY. 39

population and fresh business enterprises. Previous to 1796 the number of inhab-
itants said to be in the town are merely estimated by various persons, chiefly
travelers, and vary much.

In 1793 the taxable inhabitants were found to be 2,510, and 64 stores. In 1796
a local census was taken, and the population of Pittsburgh is given at 1,395, and
the number of houses at 102.

In this year the ramparts of Fort Pitt were still standing, and a portion of
the officers' quarters. Outside the fort, next to the Allegheny river, was a large
pond, a resort for wild ducks. On what is now Liberty avenue, from Fifth avenue
to Fourth avenue, was another pond, and there was another pond at Wood street
and Third avenue.

Another pond extended along the north side of what is now Grant street, from
Fourth avenue to Seventh street. It was in the morass created by this pond that
Captain McDonald's Highlanders became bemired and suffered such slaughter at
Grant's defeat.

To follow up in complete chronological sequence the progress of Allegheny
County in manufacturing industries from this period, while involving confusion to
the mind, would be an unsatisfactory method of giving a clear understanding of
the growth and massiveness they have attained. As a more satisfactory presenta-
tion separate subsequent chapters, or sections thereof, are devoted to each of the
staple products of Pittsburgh. While this is a review of Allegheny County's
hundred years, it virtually becomes one of Pittsburgh almost entirely. At even
the early period of 1803 the progress of the town was in most all interests that of
the county, with the exception of its agricultural progress, which was small and
uninteresting. To-day Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities are in fact the county, for
the numerous suburban villages and towns, as Sharpsburg, Braddocks, McKees-
port, Tarentum, Homestead and Verona, which contain the bulk of the county's
population, outside of the two cities, are but extensions of the city's wards, so
closely do factories and dwellings line the roads to and between. In the streets
and offices of the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny the business of the county is
virtually transacted and managed. There are, however, various interesting and
important events in the flow of the hundred years that are strictly general county
history, and some few of the details of the early manufacturing which are neces-
sary to give a perfect verbal panorama of the hundred years in which Allegheny
County has been one of the most important divisions of the nation. This is so
markedly manifest that the thoughtful reader of its history is impressed with the
influence its public sentiment, and its action, whether in political or commercial
affairs, has exerted. Allegheny County may well be proud of its record, and the
country proud of Allegheny County. It is the nursery in w^hich has been nur-
tured and educated the manufacturing industries of the west. Through its action,
influence and capital many of the more important mineral developments of the
country have been made. Always unswervingly loyal to tlie government, it has
never faltered in response to its calls, and been first and foremost in all movements



40 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

where the interests of the nation, whether of business or industrial rights, were
to be sustained. Grown up from a little knot of frugal, hard-working people, its
population has lost nothing of the earlier characteristics of its pioneers, for al-
though wealth and culture have with the passing of years come to its inhabitants,
industry is still their leading trait. To be an idler, whatever the person's wealth,
is far from being an honorable distinction in Allegheny County, and there are few
who do not sedulously pursue some profession or branch of business.

From 1800 to 1810, there are apparently no events rising above those pertain-
ing to individual enterprise, or attaching to individual fortunes. In 1810 the pop-
ulation of the town of Pittsburgh was, by census, 4,768, and it contained 641 houses
During that decade manufacturing establishments gradually increased.

In 1801 the first sea-going vessel arrived at the wharves of the town, being the
schooner "Monongahela Farmer," built at Elizabeth, and loaded with flour. In
the same year the schooner "Amity" and the ship "Pittsburgh" were built at
Pittsburgh. Of these and subsequent vessels, in the chapter devoted to "Boat
Building at Pittsburgh," the full history is given.

At this time the expense of sustenance in Pittsburgh was small. The prices in
market that year were, beef, 3 to 5 cents a pound ; of pork, 3 to 4 cents ; mutton
4 to 5 cents; venison, 3 to 4 cents; flour, $1.25 a hundred weight; potatoes, 25
cents a bushel ; butter, 10 cents a pound ; turkeys, 40 cents.

In 1802 a French physician by the name of Michand, who visited Pittsburgh,
says :

"The houses are almost all of brick, and there are almost four hundred of
them, the greater part of which are built on the bank of the Monongahela, and
it is on that side that the commercial portion of the town is built. As many of
the houses stand separately, and at considerable distance apart, the whole sur-
face of the triangle is actually occupipd, and they have already begun to build
on the high hills which command the town."

In 1803 the first foundry was erected at Pittsburgh, by Joseph McClurg. In
this year a full census of the value of the manufactures at Pittsburgh was taken,
and appears to be an exhibit of which the citizens were quite pi oud, for in Cramer's
Almanack of 1804 is tliis mention : " Do not be astonisiied when v/e inform you
that the value of articles manufactured at Pittsburgli in 1803 amounts to upwards
of $350,000." A detailed list is given in the Almanack, in which is the item —
"Glass Cutting. N. B., equal to any cut in Europe, $500." Tliis was no doubt the
work of Peter William Eichbaum, whom Messrs. O'Hara and Craig engaged in
1796 to superintend their glass works.

There are also in the list some items illustrative of the character of the day.
Four hundred spinning wheels at three dollars each are mentioned, bringing up
thoughts of the thrifty Scotch-Irish matron, and the home-spun garments; likewise,
two hundred cowbells, telling of straying cows and giving visions of flaxen-haired
''lads" and "lassies" seeking them in the bushy woods; also, buckskin breeches to
the amount of $500, suggestive of the trapper and scout and the Indian trail.



EARLY HISTORY. 41

In 1804 the first bank was established at Pittsburgh, being a branch of the Bank
of Pennsylvania. In this year an election was held for " twelve respectable citizens
for town councils, one burgess and one high constable." The contest for burgess was
an exciting one and the total vote cast was 246, of which Pressly Neville received
143 and James O'Hara 103. The expenses of the county that year were $4,067.83,
and the treasurer's salary was |12o, Mr. Ebenezer Denny being treasurer.

In the same year one of those lamentable events arising out of the so-called
"Code of Honor" of that period, occurred at Pittsburgh. Some personal difFer-
€nces between Isaac Meeson, of Fayette county, and Henry Baldwin, of Pittsburgh
having arisen, a duel was the consequence. The duelists met on the lot where the
Pennsylvania Company's buildings now are. The agreement was to fight until one
was hors du combat. At the first fire Meeson's ball struck a Spanish silver dollar
in Baldwin's vest pocket, and he fell, being thought at first to be killed. This was
soon discovered not to be the case, the ball only having raised a lump on his skin
and caused a little spitting of blood. The pistols had been loaded for a second
shot, when Judge Ptiddle, with a posse, appeared on the scene and stopped the
combat. Mr. Meeson was a son of Col. Isaac Meeson, an iron master of Fayette
county. Mr. Baldwin was a New Englander. In later years. Gen. Jackson, when
President of the United States, invited him to become Secretary of the Treasury J
he had prepared to go to Washington. President Jackson was overruled by
Joel B. Sutherland and appointed Samuel D. Ingram, and Mr. Baldwin was given
a seat on the bench of the U. S. Court. Meeson was a Federalist, and Baldwin
what was then called a Kepublican. The pretext of the duel was party politics,
but it was understood that a rivalry for the hand of a young lady was the underly-
ing cause. Another duel was also fought about two years after, on the grounds
near what is now the intersection of Forbes street and Craft avenue, between Tarle-
ton Bates and Stewart, in which Tarleton Bates was killed.

The progress of the industries of the county in the decade from 1800 to 1810
were almost entirely at Pittsburgh. As before mentioned, in 1803, the articles
manufactured at Pittsburgh was valued at |350,000. In 1806, it is noted in Cramers
Almanack, that *' two very important manufactories have lately been erected and
are no\v in operation. The one a cotton factory that can spin a hundred and
twenty threads at a time with the assistance of a man and a boy." * * * " The
other an air foundry, for the purpose of casting pots, kettles, mill iron, etc."

This is probably the foundry of Joseph McClurg, established in 1803. It is
also mentioned that " Mr. Lintot has been engaged some time in building a boat
to go up stream with the assistance of horses. If the plan succeeds it will be
attended with many important advantages to those concerned in the trade of the
rivers."

This remark is strikingly illustrative of how near mankind is often unknow-
ingly to the greatest developments in the progress of civilization. It was but five
years after Mr. Lintot's eflfbrts to construct a boat that would go up stream with
the aid of horses, no doubt watched with great intei-est by "those concerned in the



42 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

trade of the rivers," that the citizens of Pittsburgh saw afloat on the Mononga-
hela a boat that went up stream without horses.

In 1807, it is mentioned in the same publication, "this town is growing rapidly
into importance." The following manufactories are recorded: "O'Hara's glass
factory, Kerwin & Scott's cotton factory, McClurg's air furnace, Poters, Stringer
and Stewart's nail factory, two extensive breweries, O'Hara and Lewis, two rope
walks, Irwin and Davis, three copper and tin factories, Gazzam's, Harbeson's, and
Banting & Miltenberger's."

In 1808, Cramer'' s Almanack gives a detailed account of the business establish-
ments in the town, and the list enumerates eighty-five classes of business, and em-
braces three hundred and ninty-nine of what is styled " master workmen." The
effort seems to have been to make the roll exhaustive, for in it is included four
physicians and twelve school mistresses, but singularly in such a sweeping classifi-
cation there is no mention of lawyers.

Why attorneys were not master workmen, but physicians so considered then,
may be left to such humorous conjectures as the reader pleases, when eight butchers
are also classed as "master workmen."

The wants of the women for spring bonnets and the latest fashion in dress,
seems to have been well supplied, as the list gives six milliners and twelve mantua
makers, besides one glove maker.

There are fifty store keepers enumerated, and thirty-three tavern keepers. As
at this time there were only about forty-seven hundred inhabitants, men, women
and children, in the town, the supply of this latter class of "master workmen''
seems to have reached a pass w^hich now a days, is styled " over production," and
must have given a fair test as to the virtue of competition in cheapening costs.
Two barbers, and thirteen tailors provided in their lines for the wants of the male
population, and a flute and jews-harp maker was at the service of those of musical
tastes.

In 1810, Cramer' s Almanack says, about 80,000 yards of flaxen linen, coarse and
fine, are brought to market at Pittsburgh yearly, and remarks, in commenting on
some made by a Mrs. James Gormley, " Let it be no longer foolishly and roundly
asserted that American flax will not make, nor the American women cannot, fine
linen."

In connection with this it is noteworthy that all the publications of that date
contain articles, and many from distinguished citizens, urging the manufacture of
linen and attention to the culture of flax. Pittsburgh appears to have been
looked to as the most important point for the establishment of the manufacture of
linen. The value of the manufactures of Pittsburgh in 1810, is given in a census
by the U. S. Marshal, at two millions of dollars.

It would, no doubt, be interesting to give some account of the social characters
and events of the decade, but the columns of the Gazette, the Federal and the Tree
of Liberty, the newspapers that were then printed at Pittsburgh, furnish little or
nothing to glean such matters from. The prototype of tlie " Topical Talker,'*



EARLY HISTORY, 43

"Quiet Observer," and "Koiinder," of the Gazette, Dispatch, and Post of 1888, did
not exist, and the '^Society Editor" and "All Sorts" man of the Leader w&s as yet
an unmaterialized being.

It can only be judged from the foregoing resume of manufacturing progress
that Pittsburgh was a thriving and growing town, beginning to assume the appear-
ance and importance of a commercial center, and that from the two duels that
the jealousies, political rancors, and personal ambitions, at all times incident to
men, were as active then as now. There are some incidents of a biographical
nature, which, while chronologically here in place, more properly find their place
in subsequent chapters, relating to the business that from this time grew and in-
creased to the magnitude they attained in the following seven or eight decades.



CHAPTEE TV.

From i8i I to 1846.



The building of the first steamboat at Pittsburgh in 1811, was an incident in
the history of the town, fraught with results of great moment, not only to Alle-
gheny County, but likewise to the entire west, and absolutely to the commerce of
the world.

Its results are too well known to need comment beyond that which the reader's
own thought formulate. It was one of those occurrences in the progress of civiliza-
tion, twin in importance with the art of printing, as creating great revolution in
social and commercial life, and it should be regarded as one of Allegheny County's
proudest historical incidents, that the full success of Fulton and Rosewalt's inven-
tion and the first fully practical steamboat was accomplished at Pittsburgh and
built by her mechanics.

Another leading incident at this date, in the progress of Allegheny County, is
its historical connection with the war of 1812, in the volunteering and departure of
the old " Pittsburgh Blues," a military company organized some years previous
under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania, to join the north-west army under
Gen. William Harrison, who became President of the United States in 1840. This
is generally accepted as the first military organization of Pittsburgh. There was^
lioAvever, a cavalry company organized in 1799, of which Dr. George Stevenson was
captain ; also a light infantry company, commanded by Hon. William William, in
January, 1804, and disbanded July 4th of the same year. Preparatory to their de-
parture the Blues went into camp on the 10th of September, 1812, on Grant's hill ;
on the 20th they were ordered to the north side of the Allegheny river, and went
into camp on the North commons, near what is now Sherman avenue; on the 21sty
the site of their camp was changed to the banks of the Ohio river, at a point where



44 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

l^eaver avenue readies its bank ; on the 23d, tliev embarked on keel boats and
anoved down tlie Ohio, on their way to join the troops on the Maumee. By the
4:iuster roll of the company it was sixty men strong, and composed of the following
rank and file :

Officers. — James E. Butler, Captain ; Mathew Magee, First Lieutenant ; Elijah
Trovillo, First Sergeant ; Isaac Williams, Second Sergeant, w^ounded at Fort Meigs?
May 5th, 1813; John Willock, Third Sergeant, wounded at Fort Meigs, May 9th,
1813; George Haren, Fourth Sergeant; Nathaniel Patterson, First Corporal ; John
W. Benny, Second Corporal ; Samuel Elliott, Third Corporal, wounded at Missis-
sinewa, December 18th, 1812; Israel B. Keed, Fourth Corporal, w^ounded at Miss-
issinewa, December 18th, 1812; James Irwin, Ensign.

Privates.— Kobert Allison; Daniel C. Boss, w^ounded at Fort Meigs, May 5th,
1813; Isaac Chess, wounded at Mississinewa, Dec. 18th, 1812; John Deal, John
Davis, John D. Davis, Andrew Deemer; Joseph Dodd, w^ounded at Mississinewa,
Dec. 18th, 1812, died June 16th, 1813; Thomas Dobbins, wounded at Fort Meigs,
May 5th, 1813; J. Elliott, Oliver English, Enoch Fairfield, Samuel Graham, Na-
thaniel Hall, Samuel Jones, Jon Francis Lonsong, killed at Mississinewa, Dec. 18,
1812; Jesse Lew^is, Peter S. Lewton, George MacFall, Thomas McClernin, Eobert
McNeal, Norris Matthews, John Maxwell; Oliver McKee, killed May 28th, 1813;
Nathaniel McGiffin, discharged for disability ; John Marcy, discharged for disabil-
ity ; Moses Morse, Joseph McMasters ; Pressly J. Neville, promoted to Sergeant ;
James Newman, killed at Fort Meigs, May 5th, 1813 ; William Eichardson, killed
-at Fort Meigs, May 5th, 1813 ; John Park, wounded at Fort Meigs, May oth, 1813 ;
Matthew^ Parker, John Pollard, Charles Pentland, Edward F. Pratt, George V.
Eobinson, Samuel Swift, Thomas Sample, Henry Thompson, Nathaniel Vernon,
David Watt, Charles Weidner; Charles Wahrendorf, wounded at Fort Meigs,
May 5th, 1813; George S. Wilkens, promoted. May, 1813.

They were included in a detachment of six hundred men w^ho were ordered by
■General Harrison, on the 25th of November, to march from his headquarters and
destroy the Indian towns on the Mississinewa river, and participated in the battle
there fought. They w^ere also at Fort Meigs while it was beseiged by the Eng-
lish. The "Blues" were also a part of the force of two hundred men who,- under
Major George Croghan, made such a brilliant defence of Fort Stevenson against
■General Proctor and five hundred English troops and five hundred Indians.

Of the services of the "Blues" at this brilliant defence there is recorded that
the enemy, concentrating the fire of all their guns on the northwest angle of the
fort. Major Croghan supposed that when the British attempted to storm the fort
the attack w^ould be at that angle. " Seeing this, he ordered Sergeant Weaver
and six privates of the Pittsburgh Blues to place there bags of sand and flour.
This was done so effectually that that angle received no material damage from the
enemy's guns." Major Croghan had but one cannon in the fort, a six-pounder.
This he placed in such a position as to rake the ditch in case the enemy attempted
to scale the walls at that point. This only cannon was given in charge of Sergeant



EARLY HISTORY. 4*

Weaver and his six men to handle. When, late in the evening of the 2d of
August, the British storming column attacked the fort, Sergeant Weaver and hi*
six Pittsburghers opened the masked port hole at which they stood around their
six-pounder, and the piece was discharged at the assailants, then only thirty feet
distant. Death and desolation filltd the ditch around the works into which the
attacking force had leaped in their charge. Fifty were instantly killed and'
wounded, and the scaling column fled in dismay, nor did they renew the attack ;
and at three o'clock that night Proctor and his men retreated. Another incident
illustrative of the material of this company is pardonable here. The person nar-
rating it says : " I had been in attendance on Captain Butler, lying sick in one of
the block houses of Fort Meigs during its siege, and starting out one morning to-
procure some breakfast, saw Sergeant Trovillo cooking coffee over some coals. I
told him my errand, and he told me to wait a few minutes and he would divide
his coffee with me. I took a seat, and in a moment or two afterwards heard the-
peculiar singing of an Indian rifle ball that entered the ground a short distance
from where we were sitting. Hurrah! says I; Seageant, what does that mean?
He pointed to a tree at a considerable distance from the pickets, where I observed
an Indian perched on one of the branches. He said, with great good humor :•
' That rascal, George, has been firing at me ever since I commenced cooking my
breakfast.' I swallowed my tin-cup of coffee pretty expeditiously, during which,,
however, I think, he fired once or twice, and I told Trovillo I was not going to
remain a target for the yellow-skins."

The equipments for the fleet of Commodore Perry upon Lake Erie were, in a
great measure, furnished from Pittsburgh, a portion of the cannon being cast in^
the old Pittsburgh foundry, which formerly occupied ground at the corner of Fifth
avenue and Smithfield street, where the present postoflEice now stands, and the
cordage was furnished from the rope walk of John Irwin, then in existence at the
" Point," as the ground at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers
was called. The steamer Enterprise, of forty -five tons measurement, the fourth
steamboat that navigated the western rivers, took from Pittsburgh some of the
cannon and other munitions of war used at the battle of New Orleans. Leaving
Pittsburgh on the 1st of December, 1814, under the command of Captain Henry
M. Shreve, it is said that her timely arrival aided greatly in the success of Gen-
eral Jackson.

The year of 1812 is also notable in this historical sketch, as on the 28th of
August of that year Charles Avery came to Pittsburgh and entered into the drug
business with a Mr. VanZandt. It was not his thus engaging in business that
entitles his name to prominent mention in the history of Allegheny, but because
of his philanthrophy and the interest he took at that early day in the advance-
ment of the African race. He was thoroughly anti-slavery in sentiment and
practice, when such sentiments meant almost ostracization by his fellow citizens.

In order to test his convictions by actual experiment, he erected, in the latter
years of his life, at his own cost, a college edifice, which now bears his namfy



46 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

<ledicated to the education of the African. He died in the city of Allegheny
January 17th, 1858, before the college was finished, and left a bequest of |25,000
to aid in its maintainance. Mr. Avery's fortune was estimated at his death at
$800,000, of which he left a large proportion for the education of the colored
people in the United States and Canada. A monument to his memory is erected
in the Allegheny cemetery.

In 1812 the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Company began business, which was
later merged in the present Bank of Pittsburgh, which organized for business
November 22d, 1814, of which a fuller account is given, as also all subsequent
banks of the county, in a special chapter.

In 1816 an Act was passed by Legislature erecting Pittsburgh a city under the
style of the "Mayor, Aldermen and citizens of Pittsburgh." Ebenezer Denny
was elected the first Mayor, his term being from July 9th, 1816, to July 20th,
1817. He was born in Carlisle March 10th, 1761, and was a dispatch boy to Fort
Pitt in 1774, at the age of thirteen. He was a commissioned ofiicer of the first
Pennsylvania line, and served through the southern campaign that ended at York-
town. He was commissioned Captain of "Allegheny Company" of State troops,
one of the earliest formations of State militia authorized by the State Assembly in
the early part of 1794 to defend the western frontier against the Indians. He
was also adjutant to General Harmar in his campaign of 1790, and an aid to
General St. Clair.

On June 11th, 1816, the first election for managers of the Monongahela bridge,
the first bridge across the river at Pittsburgh, was held, at which William Wilkins
was elected President and John Thaw, father of William Thaw, Vice President of
the Pennsylvania Company, Treasurer and Clerk.

He was annually re-elected until 1861, when he declined re-election. The
contract for building the bridge was let on the 9th of July, to Louis Wernwag and
Joseph Johnstone. This bridge, as being one of the important thoroughfares
between the main city and the south side across the Monongahela river, claims a



Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 6 of 43)