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Allegheny County Pioneers

Moon Township

Robert Vance , who is thought to have been the first permanent settler in Moon township, settled in the vicinity of Mountour's warrant about the beginning of the Revolution and for the protection of himself and his neighbors, of whom several arrived within a few years, a stockade and blockhouse were built on his land.  The Indians on the opposite side of the Ohio were very aggressive, and made frequent predatory incursions into the territory to the south. 

Crescent Township

This part of the county was early know as the "Forks of Flougherty," and it may be observed in this connection that the stream of that name was the original western boundary of the county south of the Ohio river.

James O'Hara and William Woodburn were, at an early date, the owners of extensive tracts of land in this section, and the latter became a permanent resident in 1794.  Mr. Woodburn located on the bank of the Ohio river, just above Shousetown.  His sons were James, John and Benjamin F.

John Ritchie came in 1804, and settled in Shousetown.  His sons were William and John.

Ebenezer Worth came in 1804, and located on Flougherty's run, three-fourths of a mile from the river.  His sons were James and John, both dead. 

Samuel Vance lived next to Mr. Worth, and came here about the same time.  His sons were Robert, Joseph, Samuel and James, all passed away.

Simon Holsinger was a resident early in this century, on the bank of the river, near the Beaver county line.  He reared several sons. 

Shousetown, on the Ohio river at the mouth of Flougherty's run, was laid out by Peter Shouse in 1837.  Few indications of it former importance are apparent.  Although little more than a country village at the present time, this place was once of the most active towns on the upper waters of the Ohio river.  It became such through the energy and efforts of its founder, Peter Shouse, one of the pioneer boat-builders of this part of the state.  Born at Reading, Berks county, Pa., October 8, 1788, of German parentage, he removed to the neighborhood of Pittsburgh when a young man.  Here he obtained employment at a boatyard, and was engaged in the construction of the New Orleans, the first steamboat that ever floated on the Ohio river or traversed the Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans.  He married in 1810, and enlisted for service in the war of 1812.  His skill as a mechanic was soon discovered, and he assisted in building the fleet that Commodore Perry led to victory on Lake Erie.  On his return he settled at Elizabeth, and continued his previous occupation in that rapidly growing town.  April 2, 1822, he removed to the locality that bears his name, then a farm, with a small log house and barn, and inagurated his career as a boat-builder. 

North Fayette

In 1788 a blockhouse was built on the land of William Turner, who had become a resident of the township in 1774.  It is described as a substantial, well-constructed building, surrounded by a stockade, within which a never failing spring of water was situated.  The last Indian outrage affecting the people of this section occurred about 1780.  The four children of William Turner, two sons and two daughters, and a Mr. Fulks left their home in the spring of the year and went over into what is now Beaver county to make maple sugar.  They completed preparations for their stay, and had remained several days, when a party of Indians appeared.  George Turner was killed upon the spot.  Fulks might have escaped but for the fact that he was followed by a white dog which barked incessantly.  He was overtaken and also killed without further parley.  The party then set out with the two girls, Betsey and Polly, and their remaining brother, William Turner.  The latter died after a short time, but the girls survived the hardships of the journey, and reached a British post in the northwest, where they were ransomed.  One was married to a captian in the British army, McCormic by name, and the other to a Mr. Johnston , who subsequently settled in Kentucky, and became an officer on the American side in the war of 1812.

About the year 1780 Alexander Ewing emigrated from Cecil county, Md., with his wife and two children, and all their worldly goods were transported by packhorses.  They were received by James Ewing, who had become a resident of Collier township some years previously, with all the hospitality the circumstances of frontier life at that time would permit.  They finally settled permanently in the vicinity of Fayetteville, where the family is still numerously represented.

Of the families that were residents of North Fayette prior to 1820, the following are remembered:

John Marshall and sons Alexander, Henry, Archibald, John, William and Andrew; John Logan and sons John, Alexander, William and David; Archibald McBride and sons Henry, Archibald, John, William and James; Samuel Turner and sons John, William, Ewing and Samuel; George Cavitt and sons George, Samuel and William; William McElheny and sons William, George, Marshall, Jared, Campbell, John and James; John Cowan and sons Adam and James; John Miller and sons Thomas and James: Alexander Begges and sons Alexander and William; John Short and sons James, John, William, Alexander and Marshall; John Walker and sons Isaac and Jacob; Huston Tom and son Robert; Thomas Partridge and son Joseph; John Gregg and sons Mark and Levi; Joseph Wallace and son Harper; Thomas Wilson and sons Reed and William; William Cowan and sons William and Andrew; George Kelso and sons James and John; Alexander McFarland and sons George, Henry, Andrew, Alexander, William and Robert:  Benjamin Mevay and son Benjamin; Joseph Walker and sons James, Joseph, Ezekiel and Josiah; Isaac Walker; Adam Potter and sons Robert and Adam; Jacob Whitmore and sons Samuel, John and H. H.: Alexander McCandless and sons William, Phillip and George; ________ McMichael and sons John and James;  _______ Stoncipher and sons John and Isaac; George McKee and sons David, George and James; John Jeffrey and sons Robert and Milton; Joseph McConnell and son Joseph; _____ Glenn and sons Robert and John; John Taylor and son Robert; Joseph McMurray and sons John, William and George; ______ Robb and sons Mark and William; William Savage and son Henry; William Sturgeon and sons William, Robert and Samuel; Andrew Dickson and sons Samuel, Joseph and James; John P. Ewing and sons Samuel and Amos; Samuel Sturgeon and sons James and David; William McClelland and sons David, William, Robert and Thomas; Samuel Thompson and sons John, Matthew, Ivester, and William; ________ Williams and sons John and Isaac; Thomas Hall and son James; William Leas and sons George, Henry, Abraham and Isaac; Isaac Messer.

Noblestown, in the eastern part of the township, on Robinson's run, is the oldest town in this part of the county.  It was founded by Col. Henry Noble, but the date can not be definitely ascertained. 

The following entries appear in an old Bible in the possession of Mrs. McClelland, of Noblestown:

Joseph Noble was born in April, in the year of our Lord 1715, and departed this life at his brother Francis Noble's, in St. Mary's county, Md., on Sunday, ye 24th day of September, 1780, in the sixty-fifth year of his age.  Mr. George Vallandingham departed this life with his daughter, Elizabeth McClelland, at the house of William McClelland, in Fayette township, Allegheny county, and state of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday morning, the 4th day of October, 1810, in about the seventy-fourth year of his age, about eight of the clock in the morning.

Joseph Noble was the father of the founder of Noblesburg, and George Vallandigham, previously mentioned as a justice of the peace, was his uncle.  The mother of Henry Noble was Mrs. Martha Noble, born in Charles county, Md., in 1724; she died "at her own home on Robinson's run," in 1796.  The record quoted does not state when Henry Noble was born, but he is known to have lived in Charles county, near Baltimore, Md., prior to his removal to the west.  He is buried in the cemetery adjoining Robinson's run church.

"Col. Henry Noble's merchant-mill at Noblesburg" was one of the earliest in the county.  It was a log building, with three sets of buhrs, situated at the foot of Mill street, and there was a sawmill adjoining. 

Baldwin Township

This township was originally (1788) included in St. Clair and Mifflin. June 20, 1842, Stephen Woods, James Scott and William Kerr were appointed by the court of quarter sessions to inquire into the advisability of forming a new townhip from portions of Jefferson, Mifflin, Upper and Lower St. Clair. The proposed territory (10,446 acres) was accordingly surveyed. It became a separate subdivision of the county by decree of court, February 24, 1844. Henry Baldwin, from whom the name is derived, was one of the most prominent of the early members of the Pittsburgh bar.

There was a strong German element among the early population, and this nationality predominates to the present. John Varner, Jacob Crady, John Stewart and William Wightman were among the earliest settlers.

Of other early families in the township the following are remembered:
Joseph Wilson and sons James, John and another; Harvey McDonough and sons James, Hiram H. and William; John Carr and the son Samuel; David Kennedy and sons Isaac and David; Henry Beltzhoover and sons Melchor, John William, Henry, Samuel and Daniel; William Kennedy and sons David and Samuel; John Martin and sons Samuel, James and John; ________ Brawdy and sons John, Aaron and George; Alexander McCleary and son Alexander; James McCleary and son James; William Moore and sons James, William and Samuel; George Cunningham and sons David, Jesse and others; Francis Cooley and sons Robert, John, William, Francis and Samuel; _________ Horning and sons John and Jacob; Henderson Whiteman and son Baldwin; Thomas Verner and son Melchor; Peter Catt; Joshua Long and sons William and Alexander; Robert Long, a brother of Joshua, and son John; Jacob Mait; John Kincaid. The following were residents prior to 1820, and some of them quite early: Matthew West, James H. Hays, Johnson Glass, Thomas Lewis, John Redman, Daniel Risher.

Early in this century there were two gristmills in this township, both on Saw-Mill run, one at Castle Shannon and the other at Fairhaven. Both have gone to decay, and a steam mill has taken the place of the one at Fairhaven. A sawmill was located near each of these primitive gristmills. A fulling-mill stood a few hundred yards above the mill has taken the place of the one at Fairhaven. Both have gone to decay, and a steam mill has taken the place of the one at Fairhaven. A sawmill was located near each of these primitive gristmills. A fulling-mill stood a few hundred yards above the mill at Castle Shannon, and at an early day it was conducted by Thomas Roland, a son of John Roland, the owner of the gristmill.

Beck's run, Street's run and Saw-Mill run are the most important streams. While the land is valuable for farming and gardening, the underlying strata of coal constitute the great source of wealth. The mines contiguous to the Monongahela river are operated by J. D. Risher and the estate of James H. Hays, and in the valley of Saw-Mill run by the Pittsburgh & Castle Shannon Railroad company, John W. Ortman, president; E. J. Reamer, secretary and treasurer; S. Kaufman, vice-president, and Alexander Patterson, superintendent. The company was incorporated September 18, 1871, and the road, extending from Pittsburgh to Castle Shannon, a distance of six miles, was opened November 1, 1871. Of the other railroads in the township the Pittsburgh, Virginia & Charleston was opened in 1872, the Pittsburgh, McKeesport & Youghiogheny November 19, 1883, and the Baltimore & Ohio short line in 1883. The latter was originially chartered July 3, 1876, as the Pittsburgh Southern railroad, and was opened to Washington as a continuation of the Castle Shannon road. The branch from Glenwood to Finleyville, sixteen miles long, was built in 1883. The road was sold under foreclosure November 20, 1884, and purchased by the Baltimore & Ohio for fifty thousand dollars. It was subsequently reorganized under the present name. The portion of the old line between Castle Shannon and Finleyville, twelve miles long, has since been abandoned.

The village of Castle Shannon is pleasantly situated in the extreme southwestern part of the township. It comprises several hundred inhabitants, local stores and  village industries, a recently completed Odd-Fellows' hall, and a Methodist church. Carrick postoffice has existed since December 23, 1853; Engleart glassworks are in the vicinity, and the hamlet at this place is sometimes referred to as Engleartville. There are postoffices at Fairhaven and Redman Mills. Pine Grove is a rural hamlet on the Brownsville road, about the center of the township. There is a Methodist Church is also an old organization, while the Roman Catholic church is of recent origin.

There are several cemeteries, of which the latest, Zimmerman cemetery, comprises twelve acres. The population in 1860 was 2,746; in 1870, 3,104; in 1880, 4,373.

Bethel Township

James Miller was one of the earliest settlers in what is now Bethel township.  His sons were Alexander, John, Joseph, and Thomas.  Alexander Miller, a brother of James, came at the same time.  He had sons, Oliver, and several others whose names are forgotten.  Both these Millers and their sons are dead.  Some of their descendants are still here. 

Robert McKee was among the first who came.  His sons were William, James and Thomas.  Two grandsons of the original Robert reside on the old place.

Daniel Long came very early.  He had two sons, one of whom, Arthur, remainded here till his death.  Four of the sons of Arthur still reside in this vicinity.  Robert Smith was another pioneer.  Daniel and Robert were his sons.  Robert emigrated many years since, but Daniel died here. 

John Lafferty came here early from Ireland.  He died here some twenty-five years since, at the age of ninety-six.  He had five sons - Daniel, Jackson, James, William and John.  Of these, John is still living.  James Foster came early.  His son John K. lived and died here.  Four other sons died young. 

William McCullough was another early immigrant who came from east of the mountains and settled in this township.  His sons were James, John, Thomas, Jesse, Josiah and William.  Of these, Josiah is now living at the age of eighty-three. 

Gustave Mait and his son John are both dead.

Joseph Higbee had sons James and Stephen.  James still lives in the township. 

All these original settlers were here prior to the commencement of the present century, and some of their descendants would relate anecdotes of the part which they took in affairs of the latter part of the eighteenth century.


The constant stream of westward-bound travelers gave rise to a brisk trade in boatbuilding, though such of them as were able usually built their own craft.  This gave an importance to the mouth of Dunlap's creek which induced Thomas Brown to lay out a town on his "Whisky Path."  This he did in 1785, and named it Brownsville in honor of himself, a species of vanity which is not confined to the illustrious family of the Browns.  An effort was made to have the new town named Washington, as is clear from a deed executed in 1787, in which the property is said to be "situated in Brownsville, alias Washington."  The year after the foundation of the town it is said to have had a population of six hundred, which was more than Pittsburgh could boast of at the same time.  Merchandise was at first brought over the mountains on packhorses.  Says an early account of this means of transporation:  "Two men could manage ten or fifteen horses, carrying each about two hundred pounds, by tying one to the other in single file; one of the men taking charge of the head horse to pioneer, and the other the hinder one to keep an eye on the proper adjustmentof the loads, and stir up any that appeared to lag.  Bells were indispensable accompaniments to the horses, by which their position could be easily ascertained in the morning when hunting up, preparatory to start.  Some grass or leaves were inserted into the bell to prevent the clapper from operating during the travel of the day."  But with the increas of travel and settlement of the country, the roads underwent a much-needed improvement, which had the effect of fitting them for heavy wagons, and which dispensed with the more laborious and expensive packhorses.  The first wagon-load of merchandise brought over the mountains on the souther route, or that traversed later by the National road, was in 1789, and was for Jacob Bowman.  The wagoner was John Hayden, a native of Fayette county, who drove four horses, and brought about twenty hundred pounds, for which he received three dollars per hundred.  He was nearly a month in making hte trip to and from Hagerstown, Md., a distance of about two hundred and forty miles.

Michael Cresap was the first white settler on the spot where Brownsville now stands, although certain of the Browns, from whom the town derived its name, were in the vicinity before Cresap.  He was a son of Thomas Cresap, of Old Town, Md., who had been connected with the operations of the Ohio Company as its agent, and who by that means became at an early day acquainted with the country west of the mountains.  He was also with Col. Burd at the fort which the latter built.  Michael appears to have come to the Monongahela as a trader about the year 1769, but the precise date of his arrival can not be stated with certainty.  He became a noted pioneer, and by his knowledge of Indian intrigues was able to rescue the settlers on more than one occasion from an impending attack. He was quick in perceiving the importance to which the site at the mouth of Dunlap's creek was likely to attain as the rendezvous of emigrants to the west, especially to "the dark and bloody ground," as Kentucky was then called, and he accordingly secured a title to several hundred acres of land, including that upon which the fort stood, by what was then known as "tomakawk improvement."  He also built a house with a shingle roof nailed on, which is believed to have been the first of its kind west of the mountains.  Although, the date of its erection is now known, it was built most probably about the year 1770.  He also figured in the frontier Indian wars, and has been unjustly censured for his connection with Dunmore, and still more with regard to the murder of relatives of Logan, the famous Mingo chief.  But his character has been vindicated by John Jeremiah Jacob, who married his widow and wrote his life.

Collier Township

January 12, 1875, a petition of citizens of Robinson, North Fayette and South Fayette was presented in court, praying for a redistribution of the territory comprised within their limits, whereupon J. B. Stilley, Capt. John Gilfillan and Alexander D. Burns were appointed to the usual service of taking the matter into consideration. Under date of February 26, 1875, they reported in favor of forming a new township from the contiguous portions of Robinson and South Fayette, one-third and one-fourth of their respective areas, with about a half square mile from North Fayette, to constitute the new division. At an election May 11, 1875, the measure thus proposed was adopted by a majority of sixty-six in a total vote of one hundred and ninety. June 7, 1875, by decree of court, the new township was erected and its organization forthwith ordered. The name was conferred in compliment to Hon. Frederick H. Collier, of the common pleas bench of the county courts.

The first families who settled in this township were the Ewings and Walkers. James Ewings, the first representative of the former, was born in Cecil county, Md., about 1730, emigrated to the west in 1770, and built the first gristmill on Robinson's run, if not in the county. His claim extended from Chartiers borough to Walker's Mills, a distance of two miles, and comprised a thousand acres. In common with a majority of the emigrants from the slave states, he brought his slaves with him; their labor was utilized to great advantage in clearing the land, erecting improvements, etc. Boatswain, a negro of exceptional intelligence and faithfulness, was manumitted by Mr. Ewing in consideration of his fidelity, and established in comfortable circumstances at a locality since known as Camp Hill. James Ewing was a strict Presbyterian, and was identified with the early history of Moutour's church.

Gabriel and Isaac Walker, the first of that name in this section of country, were born in Lancaster county, Pa., the former in 1744, the latter in 1746. They were born of Scotch-Irish descent, and tradition asserts that their ancestors were in the siege of Londonberry. They emigrated to the west in 1772, and purchased land from John Henry. It was of that general class known as "tomahawk claims," and extended from Robinson's run to Scott's run, embracing two thousand acres. Gabriel located near Hays crossing, on the Pan Handle railroad, and Isaac at Walker's Mills. Supplies of ammunition and other necessaries were brought from Lancaster county every spring and autumn by Isaac Walker, who was a young man, and unmarried. This was before the era of wagon-rounds, when the packhorse was the only means of conveyance. There was a further inducement for Isaac Walker to repeat this journey as often as convenient; he was paying his addresses to a young lady in Lancaster county, whom he married in 1779 - a Mrs. Richardson, the widow of an early settler on the Loyalhanna, in Westmoreland county.

In Septemeber, 1782, a party of Indians, about twenty-five in number, approached the cabin of Gabriel Walker, and concealed themselves near by, with the intention of surprising the family while at dinner. In the meantime two hunters approached and entered the house, and as they were well armed the savages thought best to defer the attack until their departure. Visitors at that early period were not frequent, and the hospitalities extended them required a long time in the discussion of current events. And so, immediately after dinner, the younger members of the family, including William Harkins, and indentured boy, were sent to the field, while Mr. Walker entertained his guests. Several hours passed in this manner, when the latter finally departed. The Indians rapidly closed in around the unsuspecting family, but their movements did not escape the practiced eye of Mr. Walker. He called to his children in the field to run, which they did, but only Harkins escaped, and the five others were captured. Hearing the alarm, Mrs. Walker seized the two children who were with her in the house, and concealed herself until she could safely proceed to the fort. Mr. Walker also escaped. After pillaging the house and burning it to the ground, the Indians killed the two youngest of their captives, and set out with the three that remained, two young women and a boy. They then started out in a northwesterly direction, stopping that day long enough to burn the cabin of a Mr. Breckenridge. When the course of a stream coincided with the direction of their journey, they waded its channel; when a fallen tree lay in their course, they walked its trunk, making their prisoners do the same.

Harkins, after making his escape, alarmed the family of Isaac Walker, and they also made their way ot the fort, which was situated a short distance above the mouth of Robinson's run. On the following day a body of men numbering forty or fifty collected at the scene of the massacre. Under the leadership of John Henry they set out in pursuit, and overtook the Indians as they were crossing the Ohio river. The captives were taken to a British post in the northwest, and returned upon the cessation of hostilities in 1784.

Other early residents of Collier township were Rowley Boyd, who reared three sons; ____ Rogers, whose sons were Thomas and James; John Nesbitt and David, Willian and Ebenezer, his sons; Joseph Hickman, Alexander Leggett, John Wilkinson, Ezekial Harker, Richard Cowan, the Hardmans, Joneses, Moores and others. This town was the theater of some of the violent proceedings which occurred at the outbreak of the whisky insurrection. 

South Fayette Township

This township, as formed in 1842, was reduced in area to a considerable extent by the erection of Collier. Robinson's run, Coal run, Chartiers creek and the Washington county line constitute its present territorial limits. The principal streams are Miller's run, an affluent of Chartiers creek, and its branches, Fishing and Dauphin runs. One Miller, from whom the stream is named, is said to have settled at its mouth in 1768. He removed to Kentucky about the time that other settlers began to arrive. Christopher Lesnet, a German from Baltimore, Md., was probably the first permanent settler. Moses Middleswart, James Dinsmore and Obadiah Holmes, who were residents in 1800, apprived prior to 1785.

Mr. Middleswart located on Chartiers creek, near Bridgeville, where he died. His sons were Jesse, Jonathan and Vanderveer, all of whom died childless. Moses Coulter came about 1790, and settled near the center of South Fayette. He had sons, John, Richard, and Goodman Y., the last still living at the age of eighty-four. John Hanna was a settler near Bridgeville before 1800. His son was William, whose sons still reside in the township. Thomas Alexander located on Miller's run, about two miles from its mouth, very early. His sons were Joseph, Samuel, Thomas and John. The last is living in Pittsburgh. Peter Hickman was also a very early immigrant. He located near the center of the township, where he remained till his death. His sons were Joseph, John, Benjamin, Daniel, Steward, Moses and Nicholas, all dead. 

In addition to these the following were residents prior to 1820:

William Dickson and sons George, James and William; George Kelso and sons John and Benjamin; Benjamin Kelso and sons John, George, James, Benjamin, Mark and Samuel; William Herdman and sons Frank and Robert; Joseph Campbell; Christopher Erick; James Slater and sons John, James, William and Thomas; Samuel Sterling and sons William, John and Hugh; William McConnell and sons James, William and Joseph; William Waters and sons Hugh and Samuel; John Nesbitt and sons James, Ebenezer, William and David; James Hall and sons Henry, John and James; William Gilliland; John Boyle and son Hugh; Daniel South and sons Hezekiah, James, Daniel, and Benjamin; Steward Jordan, Hughey Morgan, John Wallace, Samuel Brice, Samuel Steward, Samuel Hopper, David Herriott, James Herriott, Ephraim Herriott, Samuel Shane, Darby Dunlevy, Patrick Dunlevy, Samuel and John Collins, John, Isaac and Richard Boyce, Andrew Fawcett, John Lesnet and Samuel McKown.

Source: History of Allegheny County, Thomas Cushing, Chicago: A Warner Company, 1889 - Transcribed by C. Anthony

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