From Pittsburgh Streets

George T. Fleming. "Growth of city in century is great: Celebration of charter anniversary directs attention to progress made: Noteworthy events." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Mar. 12, 1916, sec. 5, p. 2. 85766545.

Celebration of Charter Anniversary Directs Attention to Progress Made.

PITTSBURGH will be 100 years a city next Saturday. The borough charter granted May 19, 1794, lasted 22 years. The incorporation as a city, March 18, 1816, was under the name and style, "The Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of Pittsburgh."

The borough charter as originally granted was deemed too restrictive for the best interests of the growing town. Hence revision was asked and granted by the state March 5, 1804.

One of the curious things in the history of our city is that in the amended borough charter the town was to remain forever a borough. Quite short-sighted folks in those days who had no thought that the advantageous location of Pittsburgh, with King Coal on his throne nearby and a wealth of minerals would, taken together, tend to an industrial development that would develop a wonderful metropolis before they died, and one that would spread over miles of territory, hills, valley, plain and become world-famous before the semi-centennial of its incorporation as a city.

Pittsburgh and Progress.

It seems at first impossible to adapt the story today to any semblance of street commemoration. However, we have Progress street on the North Side, and in that designation we find a text, for Progress has been the prevailing characteristic of the city.

Some years ago Pittsburgh adapted [sic] a slogan—a school boy's suggestion. It is "Pittsburgh Promotes Progress." Conversely, Progress promoted Pittsburgh.

Progress street was formerly Main street in the upper section of the old Fourth Ward of former Allegheny, extending from Madison avenue to Pine street, about the line of the former Eighth Ward of that city, and previously to its annexation, Duquesne borough.

On old maps Madison avenue is East lane.

Looking back upon a century's history and a century's development, the pertinency of the word progress at this time is particularly striking.

There were times when the growth of the city and community lagged, there were periods of industrial depression—panics they called them—in 1837, 1857, 1873 and one short-lived one in 1907.

Pittsburgh has thrived upon industry. It has ever been proud of its record and fame.

Pittsburgh's wealth has been obtained from Pittsburgh territory. Pittsburgh millionaires have amassed their fortunes in Pittsburgh.

City Still Growing.

But all this is an old story. Why revamp or reiterate? Suffice it to look back upon a century of progress and note the story of certain periods.

To denominate them would include too much time and epochs is not appropriate. It savors of antiquity.

Pittsburgh is still young, fresh and vigorous. She is willing to admit it, too.

When the commonwealth chartered the borough of Pittsburgh 40 years had elapsed since John Forbes, the "Head of Iron," with Washington, Bouquet and others had looked upon the burning stockades of Fort Duquesne. Forty years of momentous history on two continents followed.

This has all been reverted to in these columns and the principal actors in that history in its relation to Pittsburgh have been mentioned and their lives and services written of in detail.

When the city charter came in March, 1816, there was peace in the world, comparative peace. But a few months before Waterloo had been fought and the Napoleonic era had terminated.

The War of 1812, our second war with Great Britain, had ended about the same time.

In fact from the battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815, to the incorporation of Pittsburgh was 14 months. These are but thoughts to take one back to contemporaneous events, or nearly so.

First City Charter.

By the first city charter the city government consisted of a mayor, select and common councils, the same old bi-cameral council so lately abandoned. There was also a recorder and 12 aldermen.

We are all familiar with the power and authority of councils to make such laws, ordinances, etc., as are necessary for the government and welfare of the city.

One requirement of the original council was that all laws and ordinances were to be published and recorded.

Another was that the doors of the respective halls of the councils were to be open during their sessions for the admission of all peaceable and orderly persons desirous of being present.

Another requirement would hardly be popular today. It was that on the second Tuesday in January and annually thereafter councils should elect viva-voce one of the aldermen as mayor of the city.

The governor appointed the recorder and the 12 aldermen.

These had all the jurisdiction, powers and authority of justices of the peace and justices of oyer and terminer and jail delivery of and for the city of Pittsburgh.

Then there was the mayor's court and the ordinary duties of a mayor attached to that office.

The recorder was allowed to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases of insolvent debtors and criminal causes originating in the city.

Gov. Snyder vetoed this legislation, but the General Assembly passed the act over his veto.

The First Recorder.

The first recorder was Charles Wilkins, son of Gen. John Wilkins.

It is worthy of note that the boundaries of the city remained the same as the borough, on the east at Washington street, now place, which extended to the Allegheny River about where Eleventh stret [sic] is now laid out. This area included the original plan of the city as laid out by George Woods and Thomas Vickroy in 1784.

A list of the original councilmen seems in place. In the perusal of this list, beyond doubt some readers today will note the names of a grandfather or great-grandfather.

Common councilmen were William Wilkins, James R. Butler, John P. Skelton, Alexander Johnston, James B. Stevenson, James Brown, Paul Anderson, Richard Robinson, John W. Johnston, George Evans, John Caldwell, Thomas McKee, David Hunter, John Carson and J. W. Trembly. William Wilkins was president and Silas Engles clerk.

Select Council consisted of James Ross, James Irwin, William Lecky, John Rosebergh, Mark Stackhouse, Richard Geary, William Hays, George Stevenson and Samuel Douglass. James Ross was president and James Riddle clerk.

At the first meeting the seal of the city was adopted, the corporation seal it was called. We have it yet.

At the second meeting of these bodies Maj. Ebenezer Denny, a Revolutionary veteran, was elected mayor and has gone down into history as the first mayor of the city. John Gilland was the first mayor's clerk.

The First Aldermen.

Maj. Denny was also an alderman, hence he could not have been mayor. Other aldermen were John Darragh, William Steele, Philip Mowry, Lazarus Stewart, Thomas Enoch, Philip Gilland, James Young, Robert Graham, John Hannan, John M. Snowdon [sic] and Matthew B. Lowrie.

We note from this extended list of Pittsburgh pioneers that few have been commemorated in street. We have Denny street for the son of Ebenezer Denny, Harmar Denny who was a noted lawyer and member of Congress.

We have Wilkins avenue, Butler street, Darragh street, Stevenson street, Anderson street, Carson street, Ross street and did have Irwin street, afterward Seventh, and now Anderson. We have Enoch street and Lowrie street.

We have at hand James M. Riddle's Directory of Pittsburgh, published in 1815, which gives us the names of the male inhabitants of the city, and from this little pocket volume we get the occupations, business and residences of these early city fathers. To this book reference is invited. Copies are kept in the reference rooms of the Carnegie libraries.

We have a fairly good picture of Pittsburgh in 1817, which is often printed and has thus become one of the best-known pictures of the city in its embryo. This is the sketch made that year by Mrs. E. C. Gibson, wife of James Gibson, a Philadelphia lawyer, who came to Pittsburgh then on their wedding tour—a momentous journey in those days.

An Early Picture.

Looking critically at this picture, the first impression is that the Monongahela has been drawn too narrow and that there should have been shown a roadway along the banks of the South Side for a road there.

Judge John E. Parke, in his lifetime one of the most valuable members of the old Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, was born in 1806 in a log house that stood near the original glass house in Pittsburgh founded by Gen. O'Hara and Maj. Isaac Craig.

Judge Parke tells many reminiscences of early days of Pittsburgh, and describes events of his boyhood. His reminiscences are a mine of wealth to the historian of today.

There was a road over there that should have been shown instead of the forest covered hillsides coming down to the river's bank.

Smoky Island, the keelboat and sailboat are well drawn. The old court house in the Diamond, with its church steeple, is well depicted also, and by the way attention is called to the probability that this was the steeple shown in the picture from Clews' plate, made in Staffordshire, England, and the picture from the plate shown last Sunday. This may have been and would make the river front extend from Market street to Smithfield instead of from Ferry street, as intimated.

Factories in Old City.

O'Hara and Craig's glasshouse is not shown opposite the Point, although it was there from 1795. The smoke from only one factory in the city is shown. There were many, even in 1817.

The buildings on the hill are the fields about what is now known as "The Hill," above Fulton street—since 1910 called Fullerton street—are shown as plainly as in Clews' plate picture.

These were undoubtedly Gen. Adamson Tannehill's, as several maps locate his residence there.

It is to be noted from Riddle's directory that most of the town or borough council as listed by him became members of the Select Council of the city.

A number of travelers came through Pittsburgh, journeying through the comparatively new United States of America. One of these was Christian Schultz, Jr., and when his journeys were ended, he published two volumes in telling the world what he had seen and heard.

These were put out under the comprehensive title:

"Travels of an Inland Voyage Through the States of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and Through the Territories of Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and New Orleans, Performed in the Years 1807–1808, Including a Tour of 6,000 Miles With Maps and Plates."

While these years are prior to the incorporation of the city, they serve to show with what respect Pittsburgh receives mention in those years.

Mr. Schultz says, in part:

After a passage of six days, I at length arrived at the metropolis and emporium of the Western World—Pittsburgh—most charmingly situated, etc., contains between four and five hundred houses, many of which would be called elegant, even in the city of New York.

Some Early Industries.

Pittsburgh has a considerable number of factories, among which may be enumerated distilleries, breweries, printing presses, an air furnace (blast?), a glass house, a cotton-factory and many more. Pittsburgh appears to be in the full tide of successful experiment and promises fair within thirty-five years or more to be the largest inland city in the United States.

In a measure this happened.

The first entry into Pittsburgh is not equally agreeable to every person as the sulphurous vapors arising from the burning coal is perceptible. Boat building, boat buying and boat selling is the business of at least one-half the town. They have already launched one dozen brigs and schooners.

The Allegheny River is certainly the most beautiful stream I have ever seen, clear and transparent as the lakes.

Mr. Schultz relates that on the outskirts of the city a big bear was killed and a deer, and that he passed canoes full of Cornplanter Indians, the Senecas from the Upper Allegheny.

Altogether, Schultz' account is interesting, and he attaches much importance to the river interests. He wrote before the day of steam navigation and the boats he mentions were mainly flat bottoms, as shown in Mrs. Gibson's picture.

Tales of Travelers.

Other travelers tell of early Pittsburgh, among them F. Cuming and Thomas Ashe, the latter writing in 1806. All the accounts of early writers have been printed in the monthly bulletins of the Carnegie Library and then clipped and pasted in scrap books and sent to the branch libraries, so that it is possible to read these without having recourse to the now rare editions of the originals.

All these writers dilate on the industry and progressive spirit of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's fame had even then been spreading.

Of all the traveler writers on Pittsburgh Ashe is the most erratic and opinionated. Leaving aside his extravagance of description, his story of things a decade before the city was chartered stands unequalled in vividness of narration and his accuracy is to be presumed.

His descriptions of the Ohio and boats and boating are especially full and entertaining. His exaggerations as to widths and distances alone throw doubt on his matters of fact.

Ashe came through about the same time as Schultz. We must pass Michaud, Flint and other travelers for lack of space.

Sally Ferson was a girl traveler. She came into Pittsburgh October 19, 1818, at 1 o'clock and stopped at Solomon Lightcap's tavern on Market street, where she bought an excellent dinner. She was surprised to learn that "stone coal" was burned here entirely, and thereupon gave vent to a most inelegant expression that doubtless permitted at the time:

"Oh, dear, how it stinks," she wrote.

Sally and the Smoke.

Sally went down the river on a flatboat and did not go further into description of the city. The lungful or two of smoke she got seems to have been a rare experience with her.

Something of the pictures today may be of importance as tending to enlighten us in regard to some conditions of life in Pittsburgh a century ago.

The Washington was a celebrated boat in its day. The New Orleans departed in October, 1811, the first steamboat in the Western rivers.

Two small steamers came in the three years following, the Comet in 1812 of only 25 tons, and the Vesuvius of 390 tons in 1814.

Then the Enterprise of 75 tons and then the Washington, built at Wheeling and Brownsville.

The Washington was built under the personal supervision of her master and owner, Henry M. Shreve. The hull was made of the scarred timbers of old Fort Henry at Wheeling and the engines were built at the great Monongahela port, Brownsville, once thought to have Pittsburgh so far distanced that Pittsburgh could never catch up.

The Washington was built on original lines—was a "double-decker," the first of its kind. The cabin was between the decks and the boilers were placed on deck instead of in the hold as in the New Orleans.

The Washington had an interesting career, too long to enter into here. The boat was a revelation to our grandfathers. Her master has been commemorated in the town name Shreveport, La. The picture today is made from an old print in possession of Thomas M. Rees.

Some Old Homes.

The residence of Samuel Reed Johnston stood on the north side of Second street, now avenue, below Chancery lane. The lot ran through to Third avenue. The house was of stone and built in 1787. It was burned in the fire of 1845.

In 1804 and for more than 12 years, it was the banking house of the first bank west of the Allegheny Mountains. Its president was John Wilkins, and Cashier George Poe, Jr. The bank was a branch of the Bank of Pennsylvania. Poe's family lived in the house.

S. R. Johnston, father of the late William G. Johnston, purchased the property in 1835. In 1815, when James M. Riddle published his directory, Gen. O'Hara was president of the bank and Poe still cashier. The fire of 1845 began nearly opposite this historic old mansion.

The reprint of Riddle's directory in 1905 has Poe as cashier of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank of Pittsburgh, of which John Scull, founder of The Pittsburgh Gazette, was president.

A few lines further on George Lecky is given as cashier, an obvious error in the makeup of the page, giving one bank two cashiers and the other none.

The "Old Round Church" of the Trinity Protestant Episcopal denomination stood in the triangle at Sixth street, now avenue, Wood and Liberty streets. It was built in 1805, but never consecrated. Although called round it was really octagonal.

Historic Old Church.

This church has a distinctive history, too long to enter upon here. It was a pioneer edifice. It can be discerned in Mrs. Gibson's sketch of 1817. It stood until 1825.

Bridges played an important part in the upbuilding of the city. The picture of the Smithfield Street Bridge shows how that original structure looked after "the pumpkin flood" of 1832. It was repaired and was burned in the big fire of 1845. It was the first bridge in Pittsburgh and was opened for travel in 1818.

Two brick houses on the west side of Ferry street are shown. These were built from the brick taken from the revetments of Fort Pitt.

These houses were still standing in 1888 and perhaps for some years after. The Wabash Terminal's elevated road passes over their site. From a shady recollection they present themselves as standing between Second and Third avenues.

It is evident that a "Hundred Years of Pittsburgh" is a big subject. Some of the story will have to be told again. The things that happened have taken volumes in the relation of them.