From Pittsburgh Streets
Great Names Are Commemorated In the Streets of Pittsburgh
Interesting History of Early City and Bits of Biography of Some of the Men Signally Honored by Its Founders and First Citizens.

IN THE discarded names of Pittsburgh streets and in those retained by transferring to thoroughfares in other localities and far removed from places as originally imposed, there is much biographical matter. Enough in fact to bring in the whole history of the American Revolution.

William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, who gives us our city name, pre-eminent among the statesmen of his day, has within recent years been commemorated in the title of the William Pitt boulevard, a change from the designation Beechwood, a pleasant enough and a sufficiently descriptive name but totally without significance other than at some point or points the boulevard passes through some timbered sections where the beech tree predominates.

Among the many changes recently made in street nomenclature this is one that is highly commendable. Then, too, we have yet Chatham street. The old-time original Pitt street is but a memory. The William Thaw homestead, now used as a business college, solitary and dignified, remains to remind us that Pitt street was once a resident street. Close to the fashionable section of Penn street that extended from Marburg [sic] to Wayne, or Third and Tenth streets, as we knew them later for a period of four decades.

Numbers Wrong Now.

Even the ordinal Fifth is now a misnomen [sic] owing to the vacation of First and Second streets, now in the railroad yards and warehouse district surrounding the Block House. Hence in succession each street eastwardly is likewise wrongly numbered.

Who shall correct this and rename or renumber? Let us hope no one. Changes of street names and localities that figure in deeds are against public policy, to say nothing of trouble and vexation to the polstal [sic] authorities and the public as a whole.

Gradually we became use [sic] to the changes. The older designation lingers in memory. We hear yet of the St. Clair street, the Hand street and the Mechanic street bridges. We shall hear for many years of the Sixth and Ninth Street Bridges. The Seventh Street Bridge having come many years after the change of name from Irwin street to Seventh, the old name was never associated with the bridge. Hence the Seventh Street Bridge became the commonly-accepted designation.

Who calls it the Anderson Street Bridge on this side of the river—the old Pittsburgh side? Some of the older Allegheny folks may, but it is likely to remain the Seventh Street Bridge for years to come. Likewise, who speaks of the Federal and Sandusky Street Bridges. These now correct designations are yet to become fixed terms.

Pitt Well Known.

Having retained something additionally commemorative of Pitt in the renaming of our beautiful boulevard, and certain to retain his name in the designation of the municipality, we may now dismiss Pitt in the study of Pittsburgh street history. It is hardly necessary to even write a line of his biography here. Every pupil in our schools above the age of 10 is presumed to be familiar with the salient points in his ennobling record. Pittsburgh, William Pitt Boulevard, Chatham street. We have got Pitt fixed and immovable and let us rejoice unless someone should move to drop the Chatham. There have been enough removals of the "ancient landmarks that our fathers set up."

On this point that scholarly Pittsburgher, who has but lately passed away, his name retained and familiar in the mercantile establishment that has been part of our commercial history for over a century, William Graham Johnston, says with all seriousness:

Respecting the original names of the streets at right angles with the Allegheny River, it was a shame when numerical ones were substituted, that provision was not made for their retention in connection with numerals, for they were forcible reminders of the city's past history, being those of officers of the Revolution, most of whom served in Fort Pitt—Marbury, Hay, St. Clair, Hand, Wayne and O'Hara. But young America in reaching out for the future has little reverence for the past.

Little Demand for Change.

But these changes were not made by "Young America." If not made they were authorized and sanctioned by the city Councils of the day, which included in their membership many staid and elderly citizens—more than a few natives of the city. There was no public demand for the numerical designators.

Likewise when the city took in the South Side boroughs the historic names from the Smithfield Street Bridge up were numbered with the prefix South. While this was sufficiently distinctive it too was unnecessary and except where names were duplicated, the old names should have been allow [sic] to stand.

The argument in favor of both changes was system and natural order. This is fairly sound apart from sentiment as applied to the cross street, but fails when applied to main thoroughfares. How much more of a strain on the memory is the retention of the many street names not numerically designated, for instance in the East End and on the North Side, where ordinals are barred? Pittsburgh got along for at least eight decades until the system spasm siezed [sic] us and in street naming it seems to have been quite severe. At least that is the opinion of old-timers and those who have not lost a veneration for our forefathers.

If Hay street was named for an officer of Fort Pitt, as William G. Johnston states, it does away with the presumption the name arose from the nearby hay market.

Officer Honored in Street Name.

It is known that the name Marbury applied first to the present Barbeau street came from an officer serving in Fort Pitt in command there in 1784. Neville B. Craig mentions him, but gives no first name. Both Craig and Johnston, native Pittsburghers, should have known all about Marbury and Hay. If anyone has written better and clearer history of Pittsburgh than William G. Johnston, it is Neville B. Craig, the latter from the first founding of the settlement of the forks to 1851 when his "History of Pittsburgh" appeared, and in the years 1846–1848, when he published his "Olden Time," a monthly in magazine style. William G. Johnston in his "Life and Reminiscences" writes from his own knowledge of affairs from his earliest recollections about 1834 to 1901.

It is to be regretted that both these illustrious Pittsburghers did not write more. The term illustrious here is not fulsome. It can be taken in the sense of conspicuous or brilliant or both. It can also carry the idea of distinguishment for certainly they were men of mark. They have given us true records from correct sources.

We come now to old Sixth street, formerly St. Clair, and the services of that great patriot, Gen. Arthur St. Clair. The presumption is strong that his biography is well known. His name has been carried in our street nomenclature ever since. William [sic] Woods and his assistant Thomas Vickroy, made the survey of the embryo city in June, 1784.

St. Clair's History.

There is a pathos in the name St. Clair though it is destined to be immortal. It is fastened firmly in the geography of Pennsylvania and deservedly so. His misfortunes and trials appeal strongly to our sympathy; his sturdiness, heroism and devotion arouse our dormant reverance [sic]. Briefly the story of his life may be stated:

Born in Caithness, Scotland, in 1734; of noble birth; educated at the University of Edenburg [sic]; studied medicine in London; inherited great means; purchased an ensign's commission in the British army; came to America in 1758; served under Amherst at Louisburg; was with Wolfe at Quebec; in May, 1760, married a half-sister of Gov. Bowdoin of Massachusetts; resigned his commission in 1762, and settled in the Ligonier Valley, Pa., in 1764; served through the War of the Revolution; was a member of Washington's staff; was a delegate in Congress and president of that body; governor of the Northwest territory; commander-in-chief of the United States army, etc., etc.; died in Greensburg, Pa., August 31, 1818.

For years his grave was neglected in full view of thousands, but is now happily cared for.

At one time Gen. St. Clair owned most of the Ligonier valley. His old home still stands, for years the property of the Denny brothers, coming down to them through their ancestor, Gen. O'Hara.

Summing up, it may be said St. Clair was a brilliant but unfortunate commander, of noble character and honest heart. Washington trusted him fully. St. Clair's death in poverty and neglect is often alluded to as one instance where our republic was ungrateful. Pittsburgh still has a street named for him.

Old Seventh Street.

We pass from Sixth to Seventh, the prior and ancient name of Irwin, and Revolutionary services again appeal. Suggestive also of John and William Irwin, early merchants in Pittsburgh. We have yet Irwin in our street names and not widely removed from the lands of the original Irwin home, Irwin avenue.

John Irwin, Revolutionary soldier, was born in Ireland in 1752, and died in Pittsburgh in 1808. He served as an ensign in the First Continental Infantry from January 1, 1776, to August, 1776, and was promoted to second lieutenant in that year.

Later he entered the Pennsylvania line in the Second Regiment as first lieutenant and was made captain May 16, 1779. Entering the war early, he served with distinction throughout the whole struggle. He was with Arnold in the expedition to Quebec, sharing all the hardships of that arduous campaign. At Paoli Capt. Irwin was severely wounded. He saw Cornwallis ground arms at Yorktown.

Irwin in Pittsburgh is a name resounding in patriotism and patriotic service. It will be noted that Maj. Irwin, as he was better known, was but 56 years old at his death. He is not to be confounded with Gen. William Irvine. While a resident here Maj. Irwin's home was in the triangular block bounded by Third street, Redoubt alley and Liberty street.

Ellsemere [sic] street was originally named Hancock. Most probably, though, our local historians do not so assert, called for the famous John Hancock of signature fame. We can not think of the Declaration of Independence without thinking of the first signer, and recalling his equally famous words:

"I write so that George the Third may read without his spectacles."

Truly it has been written of the man and the act:

"He wrote his name where all nations should behold it and where all time should not efface it."

A Famous Statesman.

Like Penn, Forbes, Pitt, and St. Clair, our people may be presumed to be famaliar [sic] with the story of Hancock's public services. Many no doubt are without knowledge of his private life. In brief we know this much:

John Hancock was born on January 23, 1737, in Quincy, Mass.; he graduated from Harvard in 1754, and, becoming a merchant with his uncle, inherited that gentleman's large fortune and extensive business.

He was one of the most active of the Massachusetts Sons of Liberty, and, with Samuel Adams, was outlawed by Gen. Gage in June, 1775; was a member of the Provincial Assembly in 1766, and was chosen president of the Provincial Congress in October, 1774; was a delegate to the first Continental Congress, and continued in that body until 1778. As president of Congress he first placed his bold signature to the Declaration of Independence. In February, 1778, he was appointed first major general of the Massachusetts militia, and took part in Sullivan's campaign in Rhode Island in the followiing [sic] August; was governor of Massachusetts from 1780 to 1785, and from 1787 until his death in Quincy on October 8, 1793.

At the unveiling of the memorial to John Hancock in Boston, September 10, 1896, Curtis Guild, Jr., who has since served as governor of Massachusetts, said in his oration:

He who would study the career of Hancock must glean it piecemeal from the brief notices in the encyclopedias, the pages of general history, and the biographies of other men.

Hancock Line Run Out.

And there are reasons for this neglect. John Hancock left not descendants—his line ran out. He had numerous relatives who received and enjoyed his great wealth. Neither pride nor gratitude incited a single one to the work of writing the life of their benefactor. What cared they? John Hancock to them was dead. He was not without frailty as human beings go—nevertheless his unremitting toil and sacrifices for the public good during the most trying period of the history of the republic deserve an eternal token of gratitude.

He was the third John Hancock; his father and grandfather were ministers at Lexington and Quincy. At 7 John lost his father by death and was taken by his Uncle Thomas to be raised. Uncle and his good wife, Lydia Henchman, were childless, and John became their sole heir, in time to become one of the greatest merchants of his age. His graduation from Harvard at the early age of 17 is in itself remarkable.

It has been thought and given credence that Hancock's bold signature on July 4, 1776, was dictated by egotism, at least affords evidence of egotism. The best refutation of this is found in the comparison with his signature made years previously. One as early is [sic] 1760 is equally bold, though it reads J. Hancock, and there are many in quite similar style in private letters to Mrs. Hancock, penned for no other eyes than those of his beloved spouse.

To enter at length into dissertation upon the life and services of John Hancock vould [sic] be to paint the lily, likewise transcend more space than any newspaper could afford to give and in the end would boil down to the main facts as above set forth. Many a person who knows little of John Hancock often says jocularly—when asking another for a signature, "Put your John Hancock there." John was "sure enough" some signer.

Hancock and the Nation.

He knew and everybody else did that he and his compatriots in putting their names on that paper in Independence Hall July 4, 1776, were signing their death warrants. John Hancock, naively or otherwise was a great character in the history of this nation. He remains a great character. Pittsburgh once had a street named for him. When the town of Pittsburgh was laid out Hancock was a lovable and revered name, and remained so for many decades. If he were not meant for commemoration in our street's name who was? If anyone has evidence to the contrary let it be produced.

At any rate, the suggestiveness of the name is apparent and the force of the reference is not without effect. John Hancock's name stands for success.

Now comes Gen. Edward Hand, whose name was likewise eliminated from Pittsburgh's street nomenclature. We know something of him and that he was here, stayed here—and when he found he could not do the good he wished he went where he could—to the front again.

Maj. Gen. Edward Hand, whose name was originally given to Ninth, or Sandusky street, was an Irishman by birth and a soldier by profession. Tiring of this, however, he had resigned from the British army and settled in Lancaster county, Pa., where he studied medicine and practiced that profession.

He was born in Kings county, Ireland, in 1744 and came to America in 1767 with the Eighteenth Regiment of Foot, or the Royal Irish Regiment. He was then serving as "sergeant's mate," or, as we now say, "assistant surgeon." His first service in this country was in Illinois on the extreme frontier.

In State Service.

When the affiar at Lexington and Concord became known in Pennsylvania Dr. Hand set to work immediately to raise troops in Lancaster county and was commissioned colonel of Thompson's celebrated battalion of Pennsylvania riflemen, afterward the First Regiment in the Pennsylvania line. He served in the early campaign under Washington around Boston.

In March, 1776, Hand became colonel of the First Pennsylvania and as such participated gallantly in the battles of Long Island, Trenton and Princeton. April 1, 1777, Col. Hand was rewarded for his really exceptional services by promotion to the rank of brigadier general and soon after Washington further displayed his appreciation of Hand by assigning him to the command of the post at Pittsburgh and to defend the border.

He arrived at Fort Pitt June 1, 1777, relieving John Neville, then a captain of militia and a sterling patriot, one of the members of the Patriot Committee at Pittsburgh. Capt. Neville had taken possession of the fort in September, 1776, and remained in command until Hand came. Neville had marched from Winchester, Va., with only 100 men.

Gen. Hand remained at Fort Pitt until recalled at his own request and was given a command at Albany, N. Y., succeeding the celebrated Gen. John Stark. Gen. Hand was an active participant in Gen. Sullivan's campaign against the Six Nations in 1778 and in 1780 became adjutant general of the Continental army. Hand's campaign at Fort Pitt was not successful, as Washington had hoped. Brave and efficient officer that he was, Hand found a vast difference in fighting the wily Redskins and fighting his former comrades in the British army and their allies, the Hessians. Returning to more active service he remained until the end of the war.

He returned to Lancaster county and was a member of the Assembly that formed the first Constitution of Pennsylvania. He was a member of Congress in 1784–1785. The patriotism and able services of Gen. Hand are not denied. When the French war clouds loomed threateningly on the horizon of the young and still feeble nation, Gen. Hand was again quickly at the front and was made a major general in the provisional army. When this trouble was settled he returned again to his Lancaster county home and died at Rockford in that county, September 3, 1802.

No Picture of Hand.

No picture of Gen. Hand is available.

It would be idle to waste space in description of Anthony Wayne and his patriotic services, once a household name in Pennsylvania, whose descendants are still living. "Mad Anthony Wayne," history calls him, but there was method in his madness. He too was in Pittsburgh for a purpose, a purpose that he fulfilled. We once had a street named for him. We may have one now—who can tell without looking into the latest street directory?

Two other streets downtown retaining their original names are alive in biographical significance as far as commemoration goes. The story of Maj. James Grant is so remarkable that it must go over. Anyhow no picture of him can be gotten ready in time. But James Ross has a home-like sound and something about him will close this week's story of our streets.

James Ross was a native of Pennsylvania, born in York county, July 12, 1762. He was a graduate of Princeton and a classmate of the Rev. Dr. John McMillan of Canonsburg, founder of Jefferson College, since united with Washington College. For a time Ross taught in McMillan's Academy at Canonsburg. He studied law in Philadelphia and was admitted to the bar in York county in 1784. He located in Washington, Pa., in 1785, and came to Pittsburgh 10 years later. In 1788 he was one of the first nine applicants admitted to the bar of the new county of Allegheny.

Rise Is Phenomenal.

His rise at the bar was phenomenal and he soon became renowned. He was for a time Washington's attorney and agent in Western Pennsylvania. He was chosen to succeed Albert Gallatin as United States senator from Pennsylvania and served an additional term, his time expiring in 1803. For three years he was president pro tem of the Senate. In 1799 he was defeated for governor of Pennsylvania by Simon Snyder, the vote standing 38,036 to 37,641. Ross was the candidate of the Federalist party. He boldly took the side of the government during the whisky insurrection. He was one of three commissioners appointed by President Washington to arrange a plan of submission to the law, the others being David Bradford and Chief Justice Yeates of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The failure of the peace overtures and the history of this insurrection is well known. The violence and treason rampant are yet deplorable.

Senator Ross' public services if given full space would fill a volume. At the conclusion of his term in the Senate he returned to Pittsburgh and purchased a plot of ground from Jean Marie, a French gentleman whose mansion stood on the block bounded by Grant, Cherry, Fourth and Diamond streets. Ross' comfortable home, a large frame, was on Fourth avenue above Grant street, and his holdings between Grant street, Fifth, Fourth and the run in the rear. Diamond street was put through this property many years later.

We have in memory of Ross, Ross township, and Ross street, and did have Ross Grove, where his summer mansion still stands, the former home of the late Robert C. Hall. When La Fayette visited Pittsburgh Ross was the chief orator at his splendid reception and delivered a remarkable address. Eight years previously he had done similarly at the reception of President James Monroe, at Judge Wilkins' residence at Water and Smithfield streets. Before removing to Fourth street Ross lived on the opposite corner, now the site of the House Building.

Senator Ross died in Pittsburgh November 27, 1847, aged 85. He had long been the nestor of the bar here. His remains were interred in the Allegheny Cemetery.

Historic Pictures.

Some pictures today have histories worthy of a passing note.

That of William Pitt is familiar to all elderly people who learned American history in the public schools from Goodrich's Pictorial as the text book. Penn the youth, in beauty of face and mind, and Penn, the old man, showing rotundity of face and form are antithetic and curious. The first, an oil painting, hangs in the rooms of the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia; the second is from an old steel plate in Atkinson's Casket, the frontispiece of the January number, 1833. The engraving, we are told, was done by J. B. Longacre from a drawing by a Mr. Edwin. The Casket was a Philadelphia magazine. The picture of John Hancock is also reproduced from a steel engraving by Longacre, from an original painting by Copley, published in the same magazine April, 1833. The pictures of St. Clair, Wayne and Ross have been published so often they can be called stock, yet each are authentic and good likenesses.