From Pittsburgh Streets

George T. Fleming. "History recalled by street names: Stanwix brings to mind many important happenings in the early days of the Western Pennsylvania settlement." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Dec. 6, 1914, sec. 2, p. 8. 85907599.

History Recalled by Street Names
Stanwix Brings to Mind Many Important Happenings in the Early Days of the Western Pennsylvania Settlement.

From the story of the street and its name to the story of the dwellers thereon or the commemorated name is but a short step. The history arising from our topography has been frequently printed and is comparatively well-known. It has taken its place in the history of the nation. Its voluminousness from a local standpoint is marked.

The great happenings at the forks of the Ohio from the middle of the eighteenth century until its end have been done full justice by master minds. The relations of Washington, Pitt and Penn to our city have filled columns of our newspapers from the time of the first issue of the Pittsburgh Gazette by John Seull [sic] July 26, 1786.

It is admitted that when the association with soldiers, statesmen and pioneers was still a powerful factor, our forefathers in authority in the city acknowledged a debt of gratitude to all those who had been prominent in the upbuilding of the town—even to some prominence before the town arose. There were early on the ground good men and true, who stood for the right and were fervent and loyal to king and colony as the times demanded. The most potent and lasting way in which to show this gratitude was to name streets and localities for them. Such having been done this fame seemed secure.

Conversely we have kept alive the name of the savage and the renegade. More than one town is called Pontiac, commemorating the great Ottawa chief—a name synonymous with horror. Locally we have Chartiers—once pronounced Sher-tee—in street, creek and township.

Base Names Fixed.

And we have Girtys Run and McKees Rocks—base names all, but they are fixed and undoubtedly they stand for pioneers, sturdy men physically, who blazed the trail and helped open the wilderness. Individually they were atrocious.

These names are as fixed as Pittsburgh. It is against public policy to change them. It is against public policy to change any time-honored and commemorative name. The history suggested by some obsolete street names will be gone into somewhat; likewise some, where the name has been retained but the locality changed, will be noted.

It is very evident our best known street names came after the Revolution. Liberty suggests the independence of the colonies and Penn the proprietaries. Two roads led originally from Fort Pitt—the Braddock road and the Forbes road, so named from the respective routes of these generals in their expeditions to Fort Duquesne. While neither Forbes street nor Braddock avenue followed these routes they serve as perpetual reminders of these two most conspicuous names in Pittsburgh's history.

Forbes street in the fifties began at Boyd street and was laid out to the city line then at Miltenberger street; beyond that it was a township road ending at what is now Brady street. It was extended to the east as far as Shady avenue in 1868, and connected with Diamond street as now about 1890 when the Duquesne Traction Company first operated a trolley line on the street. It was not a thoroughfare for some years afterwards.

This part of the city lying between the present line of Forbes street below Boyd and the steep hill in the rear was known as "Hardscrabble." Today there is not a house standing in that once delectable locality with the exception of one side of Shingiss street. The car tracks came into Diamond on a narrow bridge on their own right of way to secure which many dilapidated and small frame houses were razed.

Two Notable Men.

In Penn and Forbes we have principal streets commemorating properly two of the most notable characters in our pioneer history. Some day the ramshackle structures that line squares of these main thoroughfares will disappear and the streets become worthy of the great names they commemorate.

William Pitt, the great Earl of Chatham, from the day the red cross of St. George first swung to the breeze o'er the smoking ruins of Fort Duquesne, has lived in our local nomenclature—the chief name and the most honored. Not alone in the city's name did honor come to him, but in one of the first townships that endured from the founding of the county until its annexation with the city in 1868.

What is now called Stanwix street, formerly Fifth in the numbering scheme, was at the laying out of the city by George Woods, Sr., and Thomas Vickroy, called Pitt street, and it retained this name from 1784 until 1868, when the ordinal designation was given.

Why the recent change to Stanwix is not apparent. However, Gen. John Stanwix was the commander of the Second Fort Pitt, the one usually meant, and a street named for him near the site of that fort is eminently appropriate. It was a longtime coming.

To further honor William Pitt a street upon the hill was named Chatham street, which name is still retained. To compensate for the discarding the first name of the present Stanwix street, the great boulevard, once called Beechwood, was changed to William Pitt boulevard. This was a change that had great merit and met public approval.

When the Coal Hill settlement, now known as Mt. Washington, was erected into a borough under that name about 1867 a street was named Stanwix, an up and down thoroughfare now called Maple terrace. With the changing of the name the patronymic Stanwix disappeared from our street directory, to be recently revived.

Old Names Retained.

Mt. Washington coming into the city under the "Omnibus" South Side annexation legislation of 1872, the borough's street names were retained for many years. The next street west of Stanwix was called Kirkpatrick, and very appropriately, for it passed through the farm of Maj. Abraham Kirkpatrick, a pioneer and Revolutionary hero.

All this district is within the bounds of Penn's manor, the street part of the very land conveyed by John Penn, Jr., and John Penn to Kirkpatrick by deed of special warranty March 27, 1794. Maj. Kirkpatrick died in November, 1817. His name was taken from the street and it has since been known as Kearsarge, a historic name, 'tis true, but not of local import. Upon annexation the name was not immediately changed, bu [sic] it was suddenly discovered that there was also a Kirkpatrick street in the "Hill district," commemorating nothing especially, but it still stands.

Thus two names of stirring colonial times were removed. Only one is a comeback in a commemorative capacity.

Parenthetically, it may be remarked that Kirkpatrick's grant from the Penns consisted of 716 acres and the usual allowance for roads, comprising a large part of Mt. Washington and Duquesne Heights, in the main inherited by the major's three daughters, Amelia, Eliza and Mary Ann, who married Charles Shaler, Christopher Cowan and Joel Lewis, respectively. Thousands of subdivisions have been since made of this land, and in the years that have passed thousands of people have dwelt upon the tract and walked the streets laid through it with never a thought that they were upon the lands once tilled by a Revolutionary veteran. Now that the name has long since passed, thousands more people will never know it.

Some Names Left.

The names Shaler and Cowan have been fastened upon streets on the Mount from the families of Kirkpatrick's daughters, and a third name, "Joel's Lane," has gone the way as too truly rural. Amabel street is more fastidious.

From Stanwix street and Duquesne way to Stanwix street, Mt. Washington, is a long jump. Yet the street history above evolves logically. The first names of our streets having passed by Gen. Stanwix, it remained for Mt. Washington borough's councilmen to revive his name locally; Pittsburgh's councilmen to send to oblivion for a highfalutin designation on the Mount and years after revive the name contiguous to the epoch-making fort that John Stanwix erected in 1759 at the "Forks of the Ohio." So, too, Kirkpatrick goes the way of street names via the duplicate route.? [sic]

"Bally strange, indeed," as "Dear Cedric" might remark.

Gen. John Stanwix's name was given to a celebrated frontier fort, now Rome, N. Y., the new name abstracted from a foreign city. More than once abstracted, for Romes roam all over the union. This fort, which figures so largely in our history, though remote, lost its identity early, much as Fort Dearborn passed into Chicago, an aboriginal name however.

Why are we Pittsburghers interested in Fort Stanwix? Because there were two treaties made there with the Indians that confirmed the Penns' title to the region about the forks of the Ohio and helped checkmate the designs of Virginia in her claims. By the first of these treaties, made between the Penns and the Six Nations or Iroquois, the Indian title was extinguished on the east side of a boundary beginning where the northern state line crosses the north branch of the Susquehanna and running by a circuitous course by the west branch of that river to the Ohio. The Allegheny River was regarded by the Indians as part of the Ohio.

Old Boundary Line.

This line touched at Kittanning, thence down the Allegheny to where the western boundary of Pennsylvania crossed the main Ohio. Then the line ran southward and eastward by the western and southern boundaries of the state to the east side of the Allegheny Mountains.

By a second treaty made at Fort Stanwix October 23, 1784, between commissioners of the state of Pennsylvania and the six Nations, that is to say, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagos, Senecas, Cayugas and Tuscaroras, all the Indians' lands in Pennsylvania were purchased. The eastern boundary was that of the western boundary of the purchase of 1768. Without going into the details of this treaty or specifying the boundaries in detail suffice it to say that it gave the commonwealth of Pennsylvania good title to all of Western Pennsylvania except the Erie triangle, which was acquired later.

The treaty at Fort Stanwix was all good and proper for the conveying of any and all title the Six Nations had in the region, and they had certainly ruled it; but the Wyandot and Delaware tribes then occupied a large territory west of the Allegheny River and were not parties to the treaty at Fort Stanwix. Hence in January, 1785, the same commissioners made a treaty with the two tribes at Fort McIntosh, now Beaver, and the title of these tribes was extinguished duly by deed in terms and boundaries the same as the treaty of October 23, 1784, at Fort Stanwix.

"Thus the Indian title," says Judge Agnew, "to all the lands in Pennsylvania was finally extinguished by purchase under the humane and enlightened policy which characterized the course of William Penn and his heirs."

State Owned Much Land.

The commonwealth thus became the sovereign proprietor of all the lands within the state save only the private estates and lands of the Penns, including the surveyed manors or tenths, and certain quit "rents." This opens up a wide field of important history. Pittsburgh was one of those manors, the original city entirely within one that included much of the region to the west and south of Saw Mill Run. Hence titles in old Pittsburgh come from the Penns and also in the land that composed the southern part of the manor.

On the North Side all titles come from the commonwealth. On the South Side from Virginia. All this will seem strange history and it is all awakened by the name Stanwix—a just name for a street in Pittsburgh. He who cares to go fully into this phase of our history will find it fully and entertainingly set forth in that valuable little book, "A History of the Reign of Pennsylvania North of the Ohio River and West of the Allegheny River," etc., by Hon. Daniel Agnew, late chief justice of Pennsylvania, published in 1887.

Poor Stanwix did not live to know his name had passed into history. He was lost in the wreck of the ship Eagle off the coast of Ireland in January, 1767. With him perished his wife, a daughter, a relative and four servants.

He had been relieved from duty in America in March, 1760. It seems odd that a subordinate as low in rank as a major should relieve a British general in command. But Fort Pitt was a frontier post. Great Britain was at war with France and officers were scarce and the few men available to garrison the fort probably needed no higher commander.

Gen. Stanwix's successor here was Maj. Tulikens. This name is seldom mentioned in our annals. No street or locality has kept his fame, if any, alive. One historian, struck with its oddity, remarks that it is suggestive of a theatrical farce rather than an active military man. The name is distinctly British.

Historian's Remark.

However, Neville B. Craig says the major was a man highly esteemed and respected. The historian quoted, dismissing him with a brief paragraph, remarks in closing it:

"No one is likely to put in a claim to have a street named after him."

No one has up to date. Let us believe our excessively refined and esthetic forbears [sic] rejected the claims of the faithful and esteemed Tulikens from a mere matter of euphony. "Tulikens street" would sound almost as bad as Laza alley, which we are gravely informed at the present moment extends "from Oyer to Quipo street." And "there yez are again." Seems one Shakespeare once made remarks about a name.

However, Tulikens did not remain long enough to give much impress to our early history. Four months later, on June 29, 1760, Gen. Monckton arrived and took command at Fort Pitt and immediately sent Col. Bouquet with four companies to join Maj. Gladwin that Francis Parkman has immortalized for his heroic siege of Detroit. Here we have history in reality.

Gen. Monckton seems to have been a diplomat, for he made a treaty at Fort Pitt with the Six Nations and their tributaries, the Shawanese and Delawares. He satisfied the Indians that the British did not intend to deprive them of any of their lands except as may have been necessary to build forts in preventing the French from taking possession. Monckton left a good impress on the red men, for within eight years we find that the Iroquois, without consulting the Shawanese and Delawares, sold to the Penns all the land from the east of the Allegheny Mountains to the Allegheny River.

Justice of the Penns.

As the overlords of the Shawanese and Delawares, the ruling Iroquois considered the two tribes had no say. The Penns thought differently—hence the treaty at Fort McIntosh in 1785.

All this history comes from the mere mention of Gen. John Stanwix and his successors here and a short street named for him a century and a half after his death. But there are other historical facts that come trooping up. And the most impressive is the fact of the dominancy of the Iroquois, that great Indian confederacy, first known as the Five Nations, later with the acquisition of their congeners from the South, the Tuscaroras, known as the Six Nations. That they should dominate all the tribes east of the Mississippi is one of the strangest facts in our Indian history.

Coming back to street names we have all these tribal names: Mohawk, Seneca and Wyandotte in Soho (Fourth Ward); Oneida on Duquesne Heights; Cayuga in the new Ninth Ward; Onondago and Tuscarora in the Fourteenth Ward. Then, too, Delaware street on the North Side, Ottawa on Mt. Washington and Shawnee in the Fifth Ward (Minersville) and Mingo in the Twelfth Ward. Scattered here and there, with no regard to logical connection, these names seem to have been given one at a time by various persons. How much better contiguity and a logical sequence?

Some names escaped our street namers. Muncy and Mohican are two, the former maintained in a Pennsylvanai [sic] town, the latter well maintanied in many localities. We have omitted immortalizing in streets the Pute Watomies, Kecapoos, Cuskuskees, Shockeys and Musquakes. For this dereliction we shall have to blame euphony also.

Western Tribes Here.

These were Western tribes, some one remarks, but they ranged about Fort Pitt. Even the Nippisings from Canada and tribes from New Brunswick came to this region at times. We know these Western tribes were here. Treaties made here testify to this.

The British standard went up at the forks of the Ohio November 26, 1758. With the fall of Montcalm, the victorious Wolfe also passing away, the fleur de lis trailed upon the heights of Quebec and British supremacy began in North America.

With all the implacability of the red race, five years later came that master red man, Pontiac, in his attempts to drive the hated English from their strongholds. Of the 12 forts held by the British the red cross of St. George went down from nine in butchery, but not in dishonor. Niagara, Detroit and Pitt escaped.

Oh! we are proud of our colonial history here in Pittsburgh and we have succeeded in keeping mainly by chance one landmark of those thrilling years, and by similar chances a few commemorative names in streets and localities.

And then there was Simon Echyer [sic], captain commanding the forces besieged in Fort Pitt. Like Boquet, his superior, he was a Swiss soldier of fortune, brave and resourceful. No street name brings to mind the story of his heroism. One history writer of note in a recent work makes him the commander of the attacking forces. Where was Pontiac then?—possibly asleep or on a journey. This is a new definition of fame—confusion with your enemy. It beats the celebrated dictum, "Fame consists in having your name spelled wrong in print."