Boyd Crumrine.

History of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

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Pittsburgh and Steubenville Turnpike. — This
road, crossing the northwest part of Washington
County, was built by a company of the same name,
which was chartered under an act of the Legislature
passed March 3, 1818. The managers of the company
were John Bailey, James McFarren, A. Scott, West
Elliott, William McCreery, A. Donaldson, B. Miller,
and Samuel E. Marks. On the 26th of March, 1821,
an act was passed by the Legislature authorizing and
directing the Governor to subscribe on behalf of the
State $12,000 to the stock of the company, to be paid
in three equal installments on sections of five miles,
as completed. In a report of the managers, made
March 23, 1822, it is mentioned that of the whole dis-
tance of twenty-eight miles, one section of five miles
was then completed ; that the individual subscriptions
to the stock of the company amounted to $30,000 ;
State subscription, $12,000. After much delay, arising
from financial difficulties, the road was completed and
opened, and was for some years the highway of a con-
siderable amount of travel and traffic, which, almost
as a matter of course, was diverted from it upon the
opening of a railway connecting its termini.

Monongahela River Navigation.— The only navi-
gable water of Washington County is the Mononga-
hela River, which has been a public highway for
more than a century. On the 15th of April, 1782,
the Assembly of Pennsylvania enacted, with regard
to this river and its principal tributary, the Youghio-
gheny, " That the said rivers, so far up as they or
either of them have been or can be made navigable
for rafts, boats, and canoes, and within the bounds
and limits of this State, shall be, and they are hereby
declared to be, public highways." At the time when
this was done there was in progress an immense emi-
gration to Kentucky and other Southwestern regions
bordering the Ohio, and as a consequence the chan-
nel of the Monongahela might almost have been said
to be crowded with Kentucky boats, keel-boats, flat-
boats, and a multitude of every species of river craft,

laden with the families, household effects, and mer-
chandise of the emigrants (who embarked principally
at Brownsville), and with produce from various points,
all bound for the lower river. This kind of travel and
transportation was kept up and increased for many
years, until the days of steamboating commenced, but
it was constantly liable to interruption and total
suspension for months at a time in the summer and
autumn seasons when the river was low and without
the artificial means of raising the water to a navi-
gable stage by locks and dams.

In 1814 the Assembly passed an act (approved
March 28th) which provided "That the Governor
be and he is hereby authorized to appoint three com-
petent and disinterested persons, citizens of this com-
monwealth, one of whom shall be a practical surveyor,
to view and examine the river Monongahela from the
junction of said river with the Allegheny River to
the point where the southern boundary of this State
crosses said river ; whose duty it shall be to repair to
the borough of Pittsburgh, and to view and examine
the aforesaid river from the point hereinbefore desig-
nated at the borough of Pittsburgh to the point in
the southern boundary aforesaid, and take the courses
and distances of the several meanders of the said
river between the points aforesaid, and also an accu-
rate observation and admeasurement of the distances
between the different ripples, and the elevation in feet
and parts of a foot of the said ripples progressively
above the horizon of Pittsburgh," and " That the
commissioners shall, as soon as may be, after they
shall have made the view and examination as afore-
said, present to the Governor at the next sitting of
the Legislature an accurate plan of the same, with
its several courses and distances, accompanied with
a written report of their proceedings, describing the
distances between and elevations of the different rip-
ples; also the number of dams' already made, and
the most suitable places for constructing other dams,
locks, works, or devices necessary to be made to render
said river navigable through the whole distance ;^ and
shall make, according to the best of their knowledge
and judgment, an estimate of the probable expense
necessary for the purposes aforesaid."

The survey and examination of the river was not
made as contemplated by this act, and on the 11th of
March, 1815, another act was passed reviving that of

1 Meaning dams erected by individnals for mill purposes.

2 In "A History of the Mouonguliela Navigation Company," prepared
by Hon. James Veecli in 1873, lie says, "The earliest known suggestion
of an improvement of the navigation of the Monongahela by looks and
dams was in a report of a survey made for the State by E. F. Gay, civil
engineer, in 1828." It seems remai kaUle that Judge Veech (who was
an original stockholder in the present Monongahela Navigation C!om-
pany) should have been unaware of the fact that an act of Assembly,
passed in 1817, authorized the incorporation of a company of precisely
the same name and style of the present one, jind having the same ob-
ject,— the improvement of the river by locks and dams ; and also of the
fact that as early as 1814 an act was passed (and another in 1816) pro-
viding for a survey of the Monongahela with a view to its improvement
by tile construction of locks and dams.



1814, and continuing it, with all its provisions, in
force for the term of three years from the passage of
the last act. Under this authority commissioners
were appointed, who made an examination of the
Monongahela, but nothing resulted from it in the
way of improvement of the navigation of the river
by the State.

In 1817 the Assembly passed an act (approved
March 24th of that year) "to authorize the Governor
to incorporate a company to make a lock navigation
on the river Monongahela," to bear the name and
style of "The President, Managers, and Company of
the Monongahela Navigation Company." The act
appointed Andrew Linn, Esq., and Hugh Ford, of
Freeport ; James Tomlinson, Elisha Hunt, George
Dawson, William Hogg, Jacob Bowman, Basil Bra-
shear, Joseph Thornton, and Israel Miller, of Browns-
ville; James W. Nicholson and Thomas Williams,
Esq., of New Geneva ; Charles Bollman, Joel Butler,
and James P. Stewart, of Williamsport (now Monon-
gahela City) ; Henry P. Pearson and Joseph Alex-
ander, of Fredericktown, in the county of Washing-
ton, with seven gentlemen of Allegheny County and
two of Greene County, to be commis.sioners to open
books for subscriptions to the stock of the company
at Pittsburgh and other points along the river. The
capital stockof the company to be seventy-eight thou-
sand dollars, in two thousand six hundred shares of
thirty dollars each. As soon as five hundred shares
should be subscribed the Governor was directed to
issue the charter of the company, and it was enacted
"that as soon as a company shall have been incorpo-
rated by the Governor to make a lock navigation on
the Monongahela River, he is hereby authorized and
required to subscribe in behalf of this commonwealth
for one thousand shares of the stock of said company
at thirty dollars for each share, to be paid upon war-
rants drawn by the Governor on the State Treasurer
in favor of the President and Managers of said com-

By the terms of the act of incorporation, the com-
pany was required, in making their improvements on
the river, " to erect at Bogg's ripple a dam of the
height of three feet six inches ; at Braddock's lower
ripple, a dam of the height of three feet six inches;
at Braddock's upper ripple, a dam of the height of
three feet six inches ; at Peters Creek ripple, a dam
of the height of four feet two inches ; at Baldwin's
ripple, a dam of the height of four feet three inches ;
at Frye's ripple, a dam of the height of three feet ten
inches ; at Forsyth's ripple, a dam of the height of
three feet eight inches ; at Brownsville ripple, a dam
of the height of four feet six inches ; at Smith's rip-
ple, a dam of the height of four feet eight and a half
inches ; at Heaton's ripple, a dam of the height of
four feet five inches ; at Muddy Creek ripple, a dam
of the height of four feet five inches ; at Gilmore's
ripple, a dam of the height of three feet ten inches;
at Little Whitely ripple, a dam of the height of four

feet four inches ; at Geneva ripple, a dam of the
height of three feet four inches ; at Dunkard ripple,
a dam of the height of three feet six inches; and at
Cheat River ripple, a dam of the height of three feet
three inches," with the privilege of raising any or
all the dams not to exceed six inches above the speci-
fied height, if it should be found necessary to do so.
Owners of dams which had been erected at certain
points on the river for mill purposes prior to the pas-
sage of the act were required to raise such dams to
the specified height (if tliey were not already up to
it), and to keep them in repair ; and for so doing they
were empowered to collect tolls from boats and other
craft passing them.

The company was required, under penalty of a for-
feiture of their charter, to " proceed to carry on the
said work" within five years from the date of the act,
and to complete the slack-water navigation of the
first section — from Pittsburgh to the mouth of Dun-
lap's Creek — in seven years thereafter, and to com-
plete the second section — from Dunlap's Creek to the
mouth of Cheat River — in twenty-five years from the
passage of the act. These conditions were not com-
plied with, and forfeiture resulted in 1822. Beyond
this fact, nothing has been found to show what was
the extent of the operations of the old Monongahela
Navigation Company during its existence, except that
the books were opened in August, 1817 ; that the Gov-
ernor of Pennsylvania subscribed on behalf of the
Commonwealth for one thousand shares of the stock
as required, subscriptions having previously been re-
ceived from individuals sufiicient in amount to author-
ize the chartering and organization of the company
under the act. It is evident that the amount of its
capital stock, if fully subscribed and paid in, was in-
sufficient for the purposes intended, and that even if
the projected improvements had been completed, as
specified in the act, they would have been wholly in-
adequate to the requirements of navigation on the

In the spring of 1822, a few days after the expira-
tion of five years from the passage of the act author-
izing the Monongahela Navigation Company, an act
was passed by the Assembly (approved April 2d of the
year named) taking the improvement of the Monon-
gahela into the hands of the State, and providing
" That Solomon Krepps and Joseph Enochs, of Fay-
ette County, and William Leckey, of Pitt-sburgh, be
and they are hereby appointed commissioners, who
shall have power, and it shall be their duty, to cause
to be removed all obstructions which impede or injure
the navigation of said river Monongahela, by making
a slope or inclined navigation from the Virginia State
line to its junction with the Allegheny River, and
said improvement to commence at the mouth of Dun-
lap's Creek in Fayette County, and for that purpose
to employ suitable persons to perform said work ;"
and " That ten thousand dollars of the stock sub-
scribed by the Governor on behalf of this Common-



wealth in the stock of the Monongahela Navigation
Company be and is hereby appropriated to defray the
expenses of removing the said obstructions. . . ."

By another section of the act it was provided and
declared " That this act shall not go into operation
until the Monongahela Navigation Company shall
have first settled all accounts of said company, . . .
and until the Monongahela Navigation Company
shall also have relinquished their shares in the stock
of said company, as well those held by individuals as
those held by companies, which relinquishment shall
have been certified and transmitted under the hand
and seal of the president and managers of said com-
pany, or a majority of them, to the Governor, stating
that they relinquish all the rights, powers, and privi-
leges in and to the navigation of the river Mononga-
hela vested in them by an act passed the 24th of
March, 1817, entitled ' An act to authorize the
Governor to incorporate a company to make a lock
navigation on the river Monongahela,' and from
thenceforth said company shall cease and determine
as if the said act had not been passed."

The persons appointed as viewers and commission-
ers to examine the work done on the river by the
first-named commissioners, and to report to the Gov-
ernor whether or not, in their opinion, the money
granted by the State had been judiciously expended,
were John Brownlee, of Washington, Henry Heaton,
of Fayette, and John Walker, of Allegheny County.
Nothing has been found showing the nature and ex-
tent of the improvements made by the commissioners
under this act, or how much the navigation of the
Monongahela was benefited by them, but it is evident
that the expenditure of the small sum of ten thousand
dollars on more than ninety miles of river channel
could not have produced any very great results.

A supplement to the act of April 2, 1822, for the
improvement of the Monongahela by the State, was
passed and approved March 29, 1823. One of the
sections of this supplementary act provided that all
persons owning dams and locks on the Monongahela,
which vfere built or begun to be built, or raised to the
required height in pursuance of the provisions (before
mentioned) of the act of 1817, authorizing the incor-
poration of the Navigation Company, might petition
the Governor, setting forth the facts, whereupon the
Governor was required to appoint three commissioners
to view such locks and dams, and upon their report
to the Governor that the improvements had been
constructed agreeably to the terms of the act, he was
required to grant to the owners of such improvements
authority to collect tolls from all boats passing such
locks and dams.

In 1828 a report was made to the Assembly of Penn-
sylvania, giving the result of a survey of the river by
E. F. Gay, and favoring its improvement by the State,
but nothing was done. In 1832 the late Hon. Andrew
Stewart made an eflx)rt in the Congress of the United
States to have the work done by the national govern-

ment, as an extension, under the act of 1824, of the
improvement of the navigation of the Ohio to the
National road at Brownsville. Congress provided for
a survey of the river to Brownsville, which was made
in 1833 by Dr. William Howard, United States civil
engineer. His plan was to build locks and low dams,
eight in number, of four and a half feet lift, except
that No. 1 would be six feet, the object being to use
them only when the river was low. Congress having
declined to authorize the work, a public meeting held
at Waynesburg, Greene Co., Nov. 18, 1835, recom-
mended and urged the improvement by the State.
The movement was at once seconded by the citizens
of Pittsburgh, Brownsville, and Williamsport, and
legislation was sought and obtained.

The actual improvement of the Monongahela by
the formation of a practical slack-water navigation
was finally accomplished by the Monongahela Navi-
gation Company (second of that name and style),
which was incorporated under an act of Assembly
approved March 31, 1836, with an authorized capital
of $300,000, in six thousand shares of $50 each, with
power " to increase the number of shares to such ex-
tent as shall be deemed sufiicient to accomplish the

The persons appointed as commissioners to receive
subscriptions to the stock were Thomas H. Baird,
Aaron Kerr, Ephraim L. Blaine, William Briant,
Sheshbazzer Bentley, Andrew Gregg, John Bowers,
William Vankirk, Samuel Beatty, William Hopkins,
and James Gordon, of Washington County ; George
Dawson, Benedict Kimber, George Hogg, James L.
Bowman, Israel Miller, David Gilmore, E. P. Oli-
phant, Jeremiah Davison, Thomas Wilson, Tazewell
P. Martin, George Cramer, Yates S. Conwell, Thomas
Beatty, Aaron Bucher, John Harshe, Andrew Stew-
art, Samuel Evans, Isaac Crow, George Vance, James
C. Etington, Robert Brown, James C. Ramsey, David
B. Rhoads, William Everhart, Westley Frost, and
Samuel J. Krepps, of Fayette County ; and a number
of 'gentlemen of Greene and Allegheny Counties.
When two thousand shares were subscribed the com-
pany was entitled to a charter, and might organize in
not less than twenty days. Upon organization the
company was empowered " to form and make, erect
and set up any dams, locks, or any other device what-
soever which they shall think most fit and convenient
to make a complete slack-water navigation between
the points herein mentioned, to wit : the city of Pitts-
burgh and the Virginia State line; and that the dams
which they shall so construct for the purpose of slack-
water navigation shall not exceed in height four feet
six inches; and that the locks for the purposes of
passing steamboats, barges, and other craft up and
down .said river shall be of sufficient width and length
to admit a safe and easy passage for steamboats,
barges, and other craft up as well as down said river."
This act, like that which was passed for the creation



of the old company in 1817, authorized the company
to use, lease, or sell the water-power from the dams,
and conferred on the individual owners of dams pre-
viously built (if by them raised to the required height)
the right to collect toll from boats passing down or up
the river. By the terms of the act the company
required to commence work within five years, and to
complete the improvement to the Virginia line within
twelve years from its passage, under peualty of for-
feiture of charter.

During the year 1836 sufficient stock was subscribed
to authorize the issue of a charter early in 1837, and
on the 10th of February in that year the company
was organized by the election of officers, as follows:

President, James Clarke ; Treasurer, John D.
Davis ; Secretary, Jesse H. Duncan ; Managers,
Thomas Bakewell, James L. Bowman, John H.
Ewing, John Freeman, Cephas Gregg, George Hogg,
John Lyon, John Tassey, William Wade, Samuel

By the sixth section of the State act of Feb. 18,
1836, chartering the United States Bank, it was re-
quired, among other burdens imposed, to subscribe to
the stock of this company, then in prospect, $50,000
at the opening of its books, and .f.50,000 more when
$100,000 of stock from other sources should have been
expended on the work. The State, by act of April
14, 1838, subscribed $25,000 in stock, and by act of
June 11, 1840, $100,000 more.

In the summer of 1838 a careful survey of the river
was made by an engineer corps, at the head of which
was W. Milnor Roberts (afterwards engineer of the
Northern Pacific Railroad, and now or recently en-
gaged in the service of the Brazilian government),
with Nathan McDowell and Robert W. Clarke, as-

From Pittsburgh to Brownsville was found to be
about Soj miles, and the ascent a little over 331 feet;
from Brownsville to the Virginia line, a little over 35
miles, ascent 41 feet; totals, 90i miles, and 74J feet.
This would have required seventeen dams of four and
one-half feet lift, — one, on an average, for every five
miles, — thereby causing delays and tolls which would
have been unendurably vexatious, and an expenditure
in construction and attendance which would have
made the work wholly unremunerative. Besides, on
some of the ripples the fall was three and four feet,
and one, at the mouth of Cheat River, six feet. It
was soon seen that this plan must be abandoned.
Accordingly the Legislature, by a supplemental act, ap-
proved June 24, 1839, authorized the company to con-
struct the dams eight feet in height from pool to pool.

The supplemental act also repealed that section of
the original act which gave to individual owners of
dams on the river the right to collect tolls from boats,
in consideration of constructing or raising their dams
to the required height and keeping them in repair,
the adoption of the later plan of higher lifts render-
ing these dams useless to the navigation.

At first it was thought that ten dams of eight feet
in height would be required to carry the work to the
State line (five below and five above the mouth of
Dunlap's Creek), but by an authorized of
dam No. 4 to ten feet, and those above Brownsville
(three in number) to whatever height the banks would
allow, it was found that seven would be suflicient.

Dam and lock No. 1, a mile above Smithfield Street
bridge, Pittsburgh, was let by contract, Dec. 17, 1838,
to J. K. and J. B. Moorhead. No. 2, at Braddock's
upper ripple, was contracted (re-let), May 17, 1839,
to Coreys and Adams. Both these dams were put in
use Oct. 18, 1841, though neither was entirely com-
pleted at the time.

On the 15th of July, 1840, lock and dam No. 3, at
Watson's Run, two miles above Elizabeth, was let to
Bills & Foreman ; and No. 4, at Frey's Shoals, to Fen-
Ion & Patton (changed in construction to Fenlon &
Lonergan). The work was under the general direc-
tion of Chief Engineer Roberts. Tlie construction of
Nos. 3 and 4, from the commencement of work until
May, 1841, was under the personal supervision of
George W. Cass. In the contract for No. 4, the com-
pany, to provide against a (not improbable) lack of
funds, reserved the right to stop the work at any time,
paying for what had been done. In May, 1841, for
the cause which had been foreseen, they were obliged
to avail themselves of this right, and for the same
rea.son work on No. 3 was suspended at the same.time.

The year 1842 brought great discouragement to the
company. The United States Bank broke, and failed
to subscribe and pay its second $50,000. Of the sec-
ond ($100,000) subscription of the State, the company
was compelled to receive a large portion in State
bonds, and having received them were compelled to
sell them at a loss of fifty per cent. Many of the
individual subscribers for stock resisted payment,
while some were unable to pay. The company owed
$40,000, and had no money to pay with. Everything
seizable was taken and sold on execution. In 1841
an effort was made to secure further aid from the
State, but this was unsuccessful, for the condition of
the State treasury would not permit the investment.
In 1842 a very strong eftbrt was made to interest cer-
tain Baltimore capitalists and persuade them to re-
plenish the company's treasury, so as to complete the
slack-water improvement to Brownsville, and thereby
make it a feeder to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,
which about that time was nearing Cumberland, where
it was thought it would be obliged to make a long
halt. But the Marylanders were too intent on push-
ing their great work to the Ohio to engage in any side
enterprise, especially one which they could not con-

For two years the work made no progress, except
to decay. The whole project became a " mortifica-
tion to its friends and projectors, and a nuisance to
the navigation." Its friends were almost ready to
i abandon it to the mercies of the floods and of an in-



dignant public, when aid came from an unexpected
source. The State's financial condition had become
so depressed that the Legislature, by act of July 27,
1842, and again by act of April 8, 1843, directed sales
of all its corporation stocks, among them its S125,000
in this company. This induced a number of men of
capital, enterprise, and of unfaltering faith in the
ultimate success of the improvement to buy this
stock, — of course at a low figure, — and thereupon to
engage to repair and complete the work to Browns-
ville, upon ten-year coupon bonds, secured by a mort-
gage of the improvement and its revenues to be ap-
plied first to old debts, second to interest, and then to
reimburse to themselves the principal of their actual
expenditure. These men were James K. Moorhead,
Morgan Robertson, George Schnable, Charles Avery,
Thomas M. Howe, John Graham, Thomas Bakewell,
J. B. Moorhead, and John Freeman. They did the
work, chiefly through sub-contractors," under the name
of Moorhead, Robertson & Co. Their contract with
the company was made Nov. 9, 1843. It was July,

Online LibraryBoyd CrumrineHistory of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 104 of 255)