From Pittsburgh Streets

George T. Fleming. "Famous names abandoned." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Jan. 3, 1915, sec. 6, p. 2. 85750499.

Famous Names Abandoned

This week's street story will take up some scattered threads, delve into some more history, and evolve more evidences of patriotism in our forefathers in their humble and praiseworthy efforts to show reverence for Revolutionary heroes and maintain the names of these heroes for all time as they presumably thought.

But they did not maintain them as we know. There will appear from the story today that our townspeople in the days of early street naming were sensible and appreciative people.

They followed a well-defined system with one idea predominating—to keep alive memories of deserving and well-tried actors in the great drama of war that gave us our independence. In other cases local family names have been perpetual and in others local industries.

But first, to go back to the wharf story in The Gazette Times of December 13, last, for a brief mention of the record of this celebrated litigation for the benefit of law students and others who may wish to pursue the subject in its legal history and in legal phraseology.

These suits, the plaintiffs' speculators, were practically against the City of Pittsburgh, wherein the city's title to the wharf as at present constituted was imperiled. J. Oscar Emrich, librarian of the Allegheny County Library, when asked about them, said: "Oh, yes, we have a report of these cases. You will find them in Hazard's Register of Pennsylvania."

Neville B. Craig, in his History of Pittsburgh, it seems, refers to one issue of Hazard, towit: Volume IX, Pages 202–206, but not to a prior report in Volume IV, Page 225, of the "Register."

Gazette Is Quoted.

In the former report the article in Hazard is reproduced bodily "from the Pittsburgh Gazette," and so stated. It is the history of the case and the opinion of Justice McLean of the Supreme Court of the United States at January term, 1832.

The title of the case here is "Joseph Barclay and others vs. Richard W. Howells, lessee," and the opening statement is that the suit was brought in the Western District of Pennsylvania to recover a lot of ground in the city of Pittsburgh, described as lying between Water street and the River Monongahela.

As the district judge could not sit in the case, it was certified to the Eastern District, as required unded [sic] the act of Congress.

The defendants in the lower court had appeared in behalf of the city and defended the action on the ground that "the entire slip of land between the north line of Water street and the river was dedicated at the time the town was laid out as a street or right of way to the public. This contention was upheld in the final adjudication.

In the Register of October 10, 1829 (volumn [sic] 4, page 225), the case is reported from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Third Circuit, April sessions, 1829. The caption is "Pittsburgh Law Case." The title here is "Lesee [sic] of R. H. Howell vs. Barclay, Florence and Cotter," and the statement opens with the paragraph:

"This was an action in ejectment to recover a messuage lot, piece or parcel of land lying as described. The title of the lessor was regularly deduced from one Alexander Wilson, to whom the late proprietaries (the Penns, the acknowledged owners of the manor of Pittsburgh and the ground in question, made a part), on September 25, 1814, conveyed all the ground in the above city lying between Water street and the Monongahela River."

Appeal Is Taken.

This suit, tried before Judge Bushrod Washington and a jury, resulted in favor of the plaintiff and an appeal. The second, before Judge McLean, was in favor of the defendants, and the case remanded on removal on another appeal to the district of Maryland in the trial before Chief Justice Roger B. Taney the original plaintiffs took a non-suit and gave up the expensive and prolonged litigation to the city's everlasting good.

Going back into the records it is found that street naming and renaming has been constantly going on. From a consultation of the hand books entitled "Manual of City Councils of Pittsburgh," printed by the city for the use of councilmen and officials, some idea of the magnitude of these changes can be evolved. In the manual for 1887–1888, the statement is made that:

"In our New Street Directory, which we present this year, we find about 500 streets whose names have lately been changed. As the people in many instances are not familiar with the new names we have decided to give the old as well as the new names of streets so changed."

Then follows 478 names of streets, actual count, duplicates, triplicates, etc., up to 12 times. Among these occur six Firsts, ten Centres, eight Chestnuts, two Franklins, five Georges, four Grants, five Highs, nine Hills, six Liberties, ten Oaks, 13 Shorts, 11 Springs and eight Washingtons.

These were the names changed to other designations, one or more originals having been retained. One will scarcely look for humor in such dry matter as this list, but this line is certainly specific:

"Peel and part Orange Alley now Patterson street and A'y. 27th Ward.

There is still a rule that in changing the name of a street the initial letter of the former name must be retained, hence recently we have Grant avenue, N. S., changed to Galveston, Madison avenue changed to Milwaukee, etc.

Why the rule?

In 1887 we find the same rule and an instance in Haudenscheld-Oberhelman, Thirty-fifth ward. This has a Teutonic look and is well extended. To retain the initial and maintain a real German appearance, the name was changed and it may be noted, abbreviated to Hamburg.

Can it be doubted that some astute city father succeeded in convincing the committee or party doing the naming that there was much "at stake" in this instance?

One of the "Hill" streets was renamed Hancock—lying on the side of Herron Hill in the old Thirteenth Ward. There was another Hill street in this ward running from Addison to Kirkpatrick street. Two streets of the same name in a ward is certainly one more than enough. It develops that there was also a Hancock street in the old Second Ward, Allegheny, so the John of famous signature was not altogether forgotten in patroitic [sic] Pittsburgh.

It is realized that this multiplicity of designation demands changing and it will occur in spite of all efforts to prevent. How do these multiple names originate? Some in this manner: A speculator buys a tract of suburban land. He lays it out in lots and runs streets through the plot. Perhaps in his home "Lizzie," the darling wife, or sweetheart not yet in the home—hence Elizabeth street in the plan; in the same or another plan, Katherine from the same motive, regardless of any other street so named. If outside the city we have the duplications upon annexation of the territory.

Our city fathers in the olden time did not do their street naming thus as haphazard. They had a definite object and a definite plan. They honored and designated and endeavored to give a lesson to posterity or commemorate a condition, or industry. In the first instance we have Wood street, in the latter Mechanic and Lumber.

In the first addition to the city in 1837, that of the borough of Northern Liberties or the territory between the Allegheny River and the Hill from the present line of Eleventh street to the middle of the block between Nineteenth and Twentieth streets, the old street names stood until the "grand change all the way 'round" in 1868. When the cross streets were numbered and so stand today.

Old Bayardstown.

This territory was for years known as Bayardstown in honor of Col. Stephen Bayard, pioneer and Revoluntionary [sic] soldier, whose name is still perpetuated in a street in the Bellefield district.

Bayardstown, or Northern Liberties, its legal name, had been incorporated as a borough in 1829, and on annexation became the Fifth Ward. The territory beyond the eastern line of Bayardstown to the present Thirty-first street was annexed to the city under an act of the Legislature June 16, 1836, which created a city district out of parts of Pitt township adjoining the city on the east, which was divided into sections, each section to be admissable to the city as a ward upon a vote of its citizens at an election to be held under the direction of the Court of Quarter Sessions.

From July 1, 1845, to December 15, 1846, the second addition to the city took place after a popular vote in each instance. This gave us four new wards, the territory mentioned above being numbered the Ninth, retaining this designation until the third annexation of the East End districts in 1868, when it became the Twelfth Ward and remained so until the recent annexation of the North Side, necessitating a renumbering.

These wholesale additions to the city brought in many new streets and consequently many duplicated names. The then new Ninth Ward district became known as the outer Bayardstown district, though incorrectly. It was never part of the original Bayardstown or Northern Liberties, the name applied to the entire district to the forks of the road, or Penn and Butler streets, though that was in the borough of Lawrenceville, which began at the present Thirty-first street.

Cross streets ran at regular intervals from the Monongahela River, beginning downtown at Liberty street and continuing to Boundary street, now Thirty-third. Liberty street ended here as a thoroughfare at the old Iron City Park. It was later extended as at present.

The Lawrenceville cross street ran from Butler street to the Allegheny River and in some instances from the "Pike," or Penn avenue.

Old-Time Names.

In Woods' Plan of Pittsburgh of 1784 the first cross street from Liberty to the Allegheny River was called Marbury. When Craig and Bayard laid out their 32 lots included in the abandoned Fort Pitt plot two additional cross streets were laid out and some alleys parallel with Penn street. These were essential, and they remained until the vacation of this district a few years ago.

The old and present street names from Liberty street to the Allegheny River are as follows: Point street, later First, now vacated; Duquesne street, later Second, vacated; Marbury, later Third, now Barbeau; Hay, later Fourth, now Fancourt; Pitt, later Fifth, now Stanwix; St. Clair, later Sixth, now Federal, Irwin, later Seventh, now Anderson; Hancock, later Eighth, now Ellsmere; Hand, later Ninth, now Sandusky; Wayne, now Tenth; Washington later Canal, now Eleventh; O'Hara now Twelfth; Walnut, now Thirteenth; Factory, now Fourteenth; Mechanic, now Sixteenth; Harrison, now Seventeenth; Pine, now Eighteenth; Locust, now Nineteenth; Carson, now Twentieth; Allegheny, now Twenty-first; Lumber, now Twenty-second; Carroll, now Twenty-third; Wilkins, now Twenty-fourth; Baldwin, now Twenty-fifth; Morris, now Twenty-sixth; Rush, now Twenty-seventh; Morton, now Twenty-eighth; Clymer, now Twenty-ninth; Smith, now Thirtieth; Taylor, now Thirty-first; Wilson, now Thirty-second; Boundary, now Thirty-third.

When one reads this list it is strikingly apparent that the streets from Twenty-third to Thirty-second both inclusive, were named for persons, and two have a familiar local sound. Wilkins and Baldwin, for Judges William Wilkins and Henry Baldwin. Carrol [sic] suggests Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and that name starts a train of thought.

All Pennsylvanians Signed.

When the members of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia on August 2, 1776, were signing the engrossed Declaration of Independence, it can be truthfully stated that not one of them for a moment thought that his name would be given to a street in frontier Pittsburgh to remain in commemoration of the man and the deed for upwards of a half century. All of Pennsylvania's delegation signing the famous document were commemorated in the street names in the old Ninth ward as listed above except two, Benjamin Franklin and George Ross, and for a good reason. To have done so would have been duplicating Franklin street on the "Hill" and Ross street downtown. Franklin street on the "Hill" owing to its duplication on the North Side has been recently named Epiphany—very good Greek for "the Appearance." Now comes a strict constructionist and maintains that in the nature of things the above philosophy is wrong—the name should be Hebrew.

But this is digressing—thught [sic] it is an insight into the manner and method of street naming in Pittsburgh. The names of Carroll and the Pennsylvania signers of the Declaration naturally lead one to the history of the document and the stories of the lives of the signers whose names are intended to live in Pittsburgh street nomenclature.

Carroll, Franklin and Morris must be passed by as too well known in history to dilate upon here. Something of the other signers and a few words in regard to the signing and the mention of some salient and little known facts will close this week's story.

The resolution offered by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia June 7, 1776, that "these United Colonies are and of right out to be free, etc.," was adopted July 2, 1776. But three of the Pennsylvania delegation of seven voted yea—Franklin, Wilson and Morton; two, Thomas Willing and Charles Humphreys voted no. John Dickinson and Robert Morris did not vote. Morris, subsequently the great financier of the colonies, believed the action premature. This view was shared by Dickinson and Willing. The declaration reported on July 4, an adoption was ordered to be handsomely engrossed for signing and this was not done until August 2.

New Men Are Chosen.

Meanwhile on July 20, by vote of the Pennsylvania convention, the colonies' membership in Congress changed. Dickinson, Humphreys and Willing retired and Dr. Benjamin Rush, George Ross, James Smith and George Clymer were elected, increasing the representation by one.

Thus it will be seen that five representatives from Pennsylvania signed the Declaration who did not vote for its adoption. Of the signers Franklin, Morris, Rush and Clymer hailed from Philadelphia; George Ross was from Lancaster; James Smith from York; James Wilson from Carlisle; George Taylor from Northampton county, and John Morton from Chester county.

Besides Franklin, Ross, Morton, Rush and Clymer were native Americans, the three latter born in Pennsylvania; Taylor and Smith were of Irish birth; Morris was born in England and James Wilson in Scotland.

Dickinson, though he did not favor the declaration, redeemed himself by shouldering a musket in the field and arose to be a brigadier general. He is justly esteemed one of Pennsylvania's great men. Willing was the business partner of Robert Morris and this firm was of great assistance to the cause of the colonies in supplying stores and funds. Morris, in truth, began his business career with the great Willing Mercantile House in Philadelphia.

We must dismiss Morris with the lament that he, like St. Clair, became poor in his old age and even suffered the ignominy of imprisonment for debt. Are Republics ungrateful? Sometimes.

Thus old and discarded Pittsburgh street names evoke wonder, admiration, reverence and regret, and rightly, too. Brief biographical notes of these patriotic Pennsylvanians who were once honored here seem appropraite [sic].

Benjamin Rush, born December 24, 1745, in Byberry, Philadelphia, was a graduate of Princeton; studied medicine and practiced in Philadelphia; professor in the University of Pennsylvania; eminent as a practitioner, teacher and author. In the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, when all but two physicians in the city had fled, he visited and prescribed for 120 patients a day for a week. He was the first writer on temperance in America and prominent in the councils of the state and nation. The most striking memorial of this great man is the recorded fact that he saved from premature death over 6,000 persons in Philadelphia alone. When you pass by or along Twenty-seventh street think of Dr. Benjamin Rush. That was once his street—so to speak.

John Morton's name was given to Twenty-eighth street. He was born in Delaware county in 1724, of Swedish ancestry. He was a man of fine talents. He was a surveyor and farmer until he became engrossed in public business. He was a Common Pleas and Supreme Court judge, member and speaker of the general assembly and a delegate to the first and second continental congresses. He died in 1777 and was buried in Chester, Pa.

Noted Name Lost.

Morton was a sterling patriot. In his dying hour he sent this message to those who could not forgive him for his vote in favor of independence: "Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service I ever rendered to my country." Too bad that his name could not endure as intended in a Pittsburgh street.

George Clymer, whose name was handed down to us in the former appellation of Twenty-ninth street was born in 1739. Clymer was a merchant in Philadelphia. In the cause of our independence he has a long and laudable record. He was chairman of Philadelphia's tea committee, continental treasurer, member of the Council of Safety and several times a delegate to the continental congresses in which he labored hard and took high rank. After the Revolution he served in the general assembly, where his greatest service was that performed in behalf of abolishing the death penalty in all but the most flagrant causes of crime. He was a member of the constitutional convention, and of the first United States Congress. After serving as revenue collector of Pennsylvania during the whiskey rebellion, he retired to private life and died in 1813, at Morrisville, Bucks county.

James Smith was remembered in the original naming of Thirtieth street. He was born in Ireland about 1720, was educated in Philadelphia, became a lawyer, raised the first volunteer company in Pennsylvania to resist British oppression, was a member of the Pennsylvania conventions in 1775 and 1776. He seconded the resolution of Dr. Rush in the provincial convention in favor of declaring independence. This resolution was unanimously adopted, signed by the members and presented to Congress shortly before that body adopted the declaration. Smith served through the Second Congress until November, 1778. He died at his home at York, Pa., July 11, 1806.

James Taylor with his compatriots was not passed by in our street names. Thirty-first street, once the eastern boundary of the city in the direction of Lawrenceville, was named for him. Taylor was born in 1716 and died in 1781. He came to America in 1736. Previous to entering the Continental Congress he had served in the Pennsylvania Assembly. He served but the one term in Congress, where he signed the immortal declaration. Nevertheless, in consideration of this service alone, the commemoration of his name in Pittsburgh was an evidence of appreciation, yea, more, of honor and reverence, and it should have been permitted to stand.

James Wilson, of great legal fame, comes last in the signers' names once affixed to these local streets. He was born at [St.] Andrews, Scotland, in 1742, was educated [at] St. Andrew's and Edinburgh Universities. He came to Philadelphia about 1766, was [a] tutor in a seminary, studied law under John Dickinson, removed to Reading where he practiced law, and from there to Carlisle, retaining his residence [there] until 1777. He was a strong advocate [of] independence in the Second Continental Congress and was prominent in all [its] discussions.

Member of Convention.

He was a member of the convention [that] framed the first Constitution for Pennsylvania and of the convention that framed the national Constitution. In 1789 he was appointed one of the first associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the first professor of law in [the] University of Pennsylvania. Wilson's [fame] rests chiefly in the fact that of [the] [ten?] delegates to the constitutional convention, he was the best prepared, by his knowledge of history and the science of government, for the work that was to be done. [No one?] spoke more to the point and none, [excluding] Gouverneur Morris and Madison, [spoke?] so often on his feet. He died in [Edenton], N. C., in 1798 while on his judicial [. . .] and was buried there.

George Ross, though unfortunately [passed] by in Pittsburgh street names, must [not] be forgotten. He was born in New [Castle], Del., in 1730, became a lawyer in Lancaster, Pa., in 1751, served in the Pennsylvania Assembly, 1768 to [1776?], in 1770 [sic] elected to First Continental Congress, [in 1775?] to the second. He was a ready writer [and] a skillful committeeman. He resigned from Congress on account of ill health [in] January, 1777. He died in Lancaster [in] 1779. Shortly before his death he had [been] made judge of the Court of Admiralty.

The whole Bayardstown district [was] once a bustling hive of industry. It [always?] viewed at night, could have given rise [to] James Parton's startling simile—"Pittsburgh at night looks like hell with the lid off." It is different now.