George T. Fleming. "Stories of Lawrenceville: Part of the city which was once rich in names recalling the stirring days of early Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Jan. 24, 1915, sec. 5, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85751412.
FROM the perusal of last week's street story the thought must have arisen that the field of history represented by the names William Crawford and George Rogers Clark was incompletely covered and those heroes did not receive their full measure of justice. In other words, much pertinent matter concerning each was left unsaid. When volumes have been written it is not to be expected that lines will suffice. At best these stories can but mention the most striking characteristics of those persons commemorated in our old and present street names and some of the most fruitful history they helped make.
The whole story of the times of Crawford and Clark is deeply tinged with the sadness of a cruel warfare—the warfare of a long past century.
But this whole unhappy history is disheartening. It was border warfare to a vengeance—"a succession of wanton murders of all ages from helpless infancy to decrepit old age and of both sexes." So Doddridge characterizes it and truthfully adds:
"It was a war of mutual but unavailing slaughter, devastation and revenge, over whose record humanity still drops a tear of regret, but the tear cannot efface its disgraceful history." And this was written a century ago.
Two names in Ohio keep alive the tragedy of Crawford.
Strange naming here—the country [sic] where the tragedy was consummated has taken the name of one of the tribes inflicting their horrid death penalty upon their hapless and helpless victim; the adjoining county on the east bears the name of that victim.
What Name Stands For.
So today when one walks along or passes Crawford street on the "Hill" in old Pittsburgh, let him remember that the name stands for two things—fidelity and torture. Let him think who Crawford was and how he died—at the stake—in agony.
We may forget Capt. Pipe and Wingemund, chiefs of the Delawares; we should forget the notorious Girtys and the fierce Shawnees who put Crawford and his companions to the torture, but we cannot forget Crawford. His name lives with us.
But all the foregoing is well-known history. It is given space as pertinent in the story of our streets and an instance of how much history a mere name can call up.
Crawford's home at Stewarts Crossing, now New Haven, opposite Connellsville, and his long prominence in affairs about Fort Pitt prior to and during the Revolution, must place him firmly in the list of the local heroes of those years.
Washington's inspection of the coal areas that were in view around Crawford's cabin is worthy of comment.
Washington's favorable report on the coal is probably the first that called the attention of the world to the hidden wealth and the possibilities that must arise therefrom.
The story of coal came from the motherland. It is yet an unfinished story. Much of it is our story—the story of Pittsburgh's progress since the days of Washington, Crawford, Forbes and Boquet.
To this generation this statement brings to mind that this coal lay in the heart of the subsequently famous Connellsville coke region.
On this journey to the Kanawha in 1770 Washington remained at Crawford's three days and visited the land that Crawford had taken up for himself and his brothers. Washington's land, we know, was about the present site of Perryopolis.
Washington's party arrived at Fort Pitt, 43½ miles, measured distance, he states, from the crossing. The party was on horseback, and considering the rough country, this was pretty good riding to get to Semple's by nightfall, "in what was called the town, 300 yards from the fort." On the morning of the 20th the Washington party embarked in two canoes with their provisions and equipment for this trip down the Ohio. Crawford was in the large canoe with the future general and president; also William Harrison, Crawford's son-in-law.
Crawford long had been active in border affairs. The powder that was brought from New Orleans to Wheeling by river in 1777 was carried safely across the country to Fort Pitt and given to Crawford's care, and by him stored in the brick-vaulted magazine of the fort. This powder was paid for by the colony of Virginia, Crawford receipting for it, stating that it was for the use of the Continentals. Crawford was then in command of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment.
Powder Great Help.
This powder was a great boon to the frontiersmen, and the best possible use was made of it. It was from this stock that George Rogers Clark drew his supply in the spring of 1778.
The story of this powder is a thriller. Col. William Gibson, uncle of the great jurist, John Bannister Gibson, who secured it in the Spanish province of Louisiana and Lieut. William Linn, who commanded the small guard conveying it, are not remembered in Pittsburgh street nomenclature. Both these men were killed by the Indians.
Linn settled near Louisville, Ky., and while riding to town was surprised by a small war party and killed March 5, 1781. Col. Gibson was mortally wounded in St. Clair's defeat November 4, 1791, and died during the retreat.
There is vast history in the name Crawford. Our Pittsburgh historian, the lamented Edgar W. Hassler, has done him justice in his book, "Old Westmoreland," the history of the Western Pennsylvania region during the Revolution and of course Col. Roosevelt has characteristically and graphically given full details in his book "The Winning of the West."
Gen. Tannehill might have received greater mention as one of two major generals from Allegheny county in the war of 1812. The other was John Wilson. The unhappy results that made memorable the fiasco at Black Rock near Buffalo in November, 1812, were not without their lesson.
To this generation they are practically unknown. That Gen. Tannehill did not suffer in reputation and was comparatively blameless is proved by his subsequent honors in his home community—Pittsburgh.
The desertions, insubordination and disobedience resulted in conviction of many soldiers and fines from $40 to $60 were assessed and many "best citizens" of various localities learned to their sorrow that they could not discharge themselves from military service. In the main, the authorities were mild in their punishment, seeking to teach a lesson that would be effective for all time. The slur arose that "the Pennsylvania troops were so anxious to do something that they went home."
So much from the name—Tannehill.
Tannehill street is now better known as the street on which stands the deserted St. Paul's Orphan Asylum, unoccupied since the removal of the orphans to the newer and larger buildings and grounds at Idlewood a few years ago. The Tannehill street building was erected just after the Civil War.
Good history and bad history alike arise from the mention of a name.
There are other Revolutionary heroes to be noted. Moultrie, Marion, Denny, the Wilkinses, et al., but space forbids mention this week. Likewise the streets that commemorate names prominent in the French occupation and the names commemorating Indian chiefs. There is plenty of history in these for several stories of the length of this one.
Two weeks ago the street story had to do with names in Upper Bayardstown or the old Twelfth Ward, previously the Ninth Ward. The last street considered was Thirty-second, whose former name was Wilson, the names from Twenty-sixth street to Thirty-second, inclusive, given in honor of the Pennsylvania signers to the Declaration of Independence.
The old borough of Lawrenceville began at Thirty-second and it has a distinct and interesting history. Some names dispensed with in the Bayardstown district were retained in Lawrenceville streets, notably Harrison, the former name of Seventeenth street since given to the street running from Forty-seventh street to McCandless avenue.
In 1868, with the annexation of Lawrenceville and the townships of Pitt, Oakland, Collins, Liberty and Peebles, there was a general renaming of streets and some numbering if that is naming, though it did not exactly number. Lawrenceville had its street nomenclature, a sensible one, largely commemorative of its early settlers.
The main thoroughfares in the Lawrenceville district are yet Butler street and Penn avenue, in the olden days, the Sharpsburg road and the Greensburg pike. The former ended at the town of Butler, the town, county and street commemorating the names of three colonial patriots, brothers and all Revolutionary soldiers, Gen. Richard Butler, second in command to St. Clair, killed in the battle on November 4, 1791, in which the latter's forces were so signally defeated by the Indians; Col. William Butler and Thomas Butler.
The Arsenal Site.
The site of the Arsenal was selected by Col. Wooley, U. S. A., and William B. Foster, the father of Stephen C. and the late Morrison Foster. Col. Foster owned the land. The latter deeded the Arsenal tract to the government in 1814 and the arsenal was built about that time, the oldest building, the large storehouse, having been erected that year.
The borough was laid out by William B. Foster and Peter Dravo in 1815.
The cross-streets from the Allegheny River to Butler or Penn, as enumerated by the late Miss Killikelly, in his [sic] "History of Pittsburgh," are wrong. Forty-third street was formerly Ewalt, from a pinoeer [sic] family, Samuel Ewalt. Mr. Ewalt was living in Water street at the time of Woods' and Vickroy's survey in 1784.
Miss Killikelly numbers Main street also, which was not put through for some years after the street naming of 1868. She does not mention Forty-third and one-half street, and surely that has a name and a half.
The possibilities that are presented on this fractional plan are really appalling. Imagine the terrifying look of an innocent inquirer when informed that you lived at Forty-second and Three-sixteenth street!
It is well that the street framers did not go farther than halves and omitted decimal forms. They were really wise in this. It is well to remember also that Main and Fisk streets are not numbered; neither are some streets further out, Howe [sic] street and McCandless avenue, for instance.
Numbering Is Inaccurate.
The numbering, then, is not consecutive, hence inaccurate. Forty-third street is no more Forty-third than Fifth avenue is fifth in order.
Fifth is really the sixth avenue, Sixth the eighth, and Seventh the ninth by actual count.
How much more of an avenue is Sixth than Diamond? Oliver is new and necessary. It is Virgin alley widened. Diamond, too, has been widened and the terminal designation, alley, dropped. It was Diamond street above Smithfield street because wider than below, hence it has remained a street and was not dubbed a way or a place like old Washington street, which is just as much of a street as it ever was.
There is a crying need for some one to come forward and explain the difference between an avenue and a street, a way and a place, and inform us also what has become of the old-time alley.
Perhaps those that are not places are ways, and vice versa, who knows? Fifty years ago there was not an avenue in Pittsburgh.
Writing from memory and partly informed, it is [sic] seems that the Lawrenceville cross-streets had former names, as follows:
Thirty-fourth was Johnson; Thirty-fifth, Lawrence; Thirty-sixth, Wainwright; Thirty-seventh, Dravo; Thirty-eighth, Allen; Thirty-ninth, Pike; (lower end of arsenal) Fortieth, Covington; (upper end of arsenal) Forty-first, Borough; Forty-second, Chestnut; Forty-third, Ewalt; Forty-fourth, Bellefontaine; Forty-fifth, St. Mary's; Forty-sixth, Church; Forty-seventh, Schoenberger [sic]. There arises a faint recollection that Allen street was parallel to Butler and below it.
If this enumeration is not correct, some former or present "Lawrencevillian" can send in the correct designation. Main, however, is nearly opposite Forty-first street.
Names of Pioneers.
The idea in the above list is to show the names of pioneers that have been dispensed with, Johnston [sic], Wainwright, Dravo, Allen, Ewalt, Shoenberger, etc.
The name Wainwright, yet a prominent family name in Pittsburgh, is especially of historic fame in that it led to the river at the foot of Wainwright's Island, long since wasted away. It was on this island that Gist and Washington landed after their perilous voyage across the Allegheny, full of heavy floating ice, on an improvised raft in 1753, while returning from their mission to the French commander, St. Pierre, at LeBoef, now Waterford, Pa.
Washington records in his journal December 27, 1753, that they built the raft with one poor hatchet and finished after sunset, putting a whole day in the work. The next day they launched it and getting aboard, pushed it off. He continues:
Before we were half way over we were jammed in the ice and in such a manner that we expected every moment our raft to sink and ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try and stop the raft that the ice might pass by, when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole that it jerked me out into 10 feet of water, but fortunately I saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs.
Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get to either shore, but were obliged as we were near an island to quit our raft and make for it.
Cross on Ice.
The two put in a miserable night, Gist having his fingers and toes frozen, but the channel between the island and bank froze so hard they had no difficulty in crossing in the morning and then made their way to the cabin of John Frazier, the English trader on the Monongahela, at the mouth of Turtle Creek.
Gist relates in his journal, Saturday December 29, 1753:
We set out early, got to Allegheny, made a raft and, with much difficulty, got over to an island, a little above Shannopin's town. The major having fallen from the raft, and my fingers frost-bitten, and the sun down, we contented ourselves upon that island.
It was deep water between us and the shore, but the cold did us some service, for in the morning it was frozen hard enough for us to pass over on the ice.
Sunday, December 30, we set out about 10 miles to John Frazier's at Turtle Creek, and rested that evening.
It is evident that the major has gone more into details. Shannopins Town was at Thirty-third street and the river.
Name of Greatest Fame.
Of all the street names in old Lawrenceville that of Foster has the greatest fame. It arouses memories that are fragrant. It brings melody to mind sweet strains, words of pathos and love—in song of the heart—songs of the long, long ago—songs that never die.
Do we think of the man Foster when we hear the "Old Kentucky Home" sung or played? Do we think of the street that commemorates the family?
To be sure, Foster street is not much of a street as modern streets go, but it is near Stephen's boyhood home, in the district that once constituted the borough of Lawrenceville that his honored father founded and who owned most of the land in the borough.
Stories of Stephen C. Foster are always revelant [sic]. An especially interesting one, no doubt new to this generation, is furnished by B. D. M. Eaton, an octogenarian whose home is in St. Louis. Mr. Eaton is an old-time newspaper man who passed his youth in Pittsburgh and graduated into the great Fourth Estate from the composing room of the old Gazette in the late 50's. Mr. Eaton can be justly termed the last leaf upon the tree. All his contemporaries have passed away. He says:
Having lived in Pittsburgh and visited there several times since my removal to Cincinnati just prior to the Civil War, I cannot help admiring the changes that have taken place in the smoky city of my boyhood days.
I am proud to have known intimately the world-famous Stephen C. Foster and the eccentric though genial Bartley Campbell. Both have long since gone, but their memory lingers.
My first introduction to Stephen C. Foster was an amusing one. With a friend I went out to the arsenal at Lawrenceville one Sunday afternoon in September, 1853. Noticing an inviting restaurant with chairs in front, I started to take a seat. By some miscalculation I upset a chair. The proprietor came out to see who had intruded on his front porch and was making free with the chairs.
Just as an argument had arisen in regard to the throwing down of the chair a pleasant-looking man said to the proprietor:
"That was accidental, Mr. Johnston; I know he did not intend to do it."
As an intervention of this kind was welcome to me, I offered him my hand with the remark:
"Thanks for your kindness," and added: "My name is B. D. M. Eaton and I am originally from St. Johns, New Brunswick."
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Eaton. I have just been reading about Arcadia. My name is Stephen C. Foster."
In an instant I had met the composer I had wished to see, and I so expressed myself. I sat down on the misplaced chair for a chat after I had introduced my friend.
New Song Sung.
I expressed my heartfelt appreciation at the pleasure his compositions I had heard sung had on me and inquired if he had written any new ones lately. He said:
"I have the best one of them all, and if you will go into the hotel parlor I will try to play and sing it for you." We went in, and he played "My Old Kentucky Home." This composition so entranced me that I told him I wanted to keep the melody and sentiment in my memory forever and would not ask for more.
Then, at his request, I told him all I could about Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and their environments of the "Home of Evangeline." At that time he looked like the old-time newspaper man, with his hair brushed back of his ears, and he seemed desirous, in his poetical mind, to etherialize the story of Evangeline—to raise it above the realm of a petty love story.
At the wonderful celebration of the battle of Gettysburg on the historic field July 1 to 5, 1913, the well trained band of the Fifth United States Infantry played in front of headquarters each evening at "retreat," or when the flag comes down for the day. Led by a grim veteran sergeant with all the grace of a Thomas or Damrosch, each evening the gathered crowd was treated to a concert far above the ordinary. The marches of Sousa, the rollicking airs appreciated by the soldier boys, the selections from the masters were all received with favor.
In an instant the music drited [sic] into a medley "Dixie" first and there was at once a rousing cheer, in which the old Confederates in gray, the old boys in blue, the negro camp servants, the visitors and the camp followers joined heartily.
The negroes joined hands and gamboled gaily on the sward, turned handsprings and danced. "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" brings a cheer from boys in khaki. Then follows suddenly "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The Suanee River," and a hush comes. There is a spellbound audience as the sweet notes float away on the evening air. It is the spell of the melody—the eloquence of tuneful sound.
So Foster street and Lawrenceville call up strange thoughts—wonderful memories—Lawrenceville is Foster and the Foster family was once Lawrenceville. Better the song of the heart in Foster street than the horror inspired by the name Crawford—but it is all history.
Memories of Past.
The pictures of the arsenal, the old Lawrenceville Academy and the Foster home will surely appeal to all residents of the old borough and the old Fifteenth and Seventeenth wards. They will remember the morning and evening gun, the sentry at the Butler street gate, the flag going up at reveille and coming down in a beautiful motion at sundown. They will remember the busy scenes at the arsenal in the war days and the terrible explosion in September, 1862.The date of Mr. Eaton's picture is 1861, the year of the breaking out of the Civil War, during which he was a "war correspondent." The Foster picture is well known. Stephen C. Foster died in 1864.