From Pittsburgh Streets

George T. Fleming. "Wood's [sic] plan of Pittsburgh: Thomas Vickroy's account of the survey of 1784 and parts taken in city's early life by Craig and Bayard." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Dec. 13, 1914, sec. 2, p. 2. 85908612.

Wood's [sic] Plan of Pittsburgh
Thomas Vickroy's Account of the Survey of 1784 and Parts Taken in City's Early Life by Craig and Bayard.

IN THE study of Pittsburgh street history, its early nomenclature, and the changes therein, there is much to impress. One name calling up colonial days from association brings up another. Each has its individual commemorated and in the name the deeds appear. The whole history of the region gradually evolves. The very mention of Gens. St. Clair, Hand, Irvine, Mercer, O'Hara, Wayne and Steuben; Cols. Butler, Neville, Smallman, Crawford and Bayard; Majs. Craig, Marburg [sic] and Kirkpatrick, suggests service in the Revolutionary War. Hard service, too, in that prolonged war and an intense patriotism.

If the facts of Washington's close association with our history were not well known, any one of the above names would serve to associate it. All mentioned were tried and true friends of the Father of His Country. All were at one time commemorated in the naming of our streets, and there were others of Revolutionary service also.

Of the above mentioned all did not survive the War for Independence. Gallant Hugh Mercer fell at Princeton. One obscure street in Pittsburgh is named in his honor, a short highway running from Webster avenue to Bedford avenue. When we consider the man and his record this seems a trifling tribute. Hugh Mercer was early at the forks of the Ohio and active in the border warfare previous to the Revolution. He came with Gen. Forbes' army, commanding the Third Battalion of that army. By the command of Forbes, he built the first Fort Pitt in 1759.

Previously, in 1756, he had commanded a company under Col. John Armstrong in the expedition against Kittanning and took part in the battle there. Mercer was a Virginian. Pennsylvania we know reveres his name, for we have Mercer town and county and Mercersburg. We have also Armstrong county.

Honored Names to Live.

So our forefathers decreed honored names should live. Any effort to change the names of these counties or towns would meet with stern opposition. Apparently no one wishes to change them. Yet there was a day when many equally significant names, though of humbler localities, that is to say of streets, were removed from Pittsburgh's municipal history and no staying hand availed.

Naturally there comes to mind Gen. Mercer's associates in Forbes' little army. We find many names noted in Pennsylvania's history—but few known in Pittsburgh.

The commander of the first battalion was Col. John Armstrong of Kittanning fame. Col. James Burd commanded the second. Of the staff we have remembered in street names the chaplain, the Rev. Charles Beatty, and the quartermaster, Thomas Smallman; possibly also Lieut.-Col. Hance Hamilton. Of the long list of captains only Edward Ward appeals.

Lately we have had the name Graeme fastened upon old Union street, a thoroughfare with a few houses on one side extending from Fifth avenue to the Diamond. (It is still the Diamond with old Pittsburghers.) Dr. Graeme was a member of Gov. Denny's council, and the father-in-law of Lieut.-Col. Joseph Shippen, who served on the staff during the expedition. Col. Burd was also a relative of the Shippens by marriage. With Forbes and Boquet these seem about all the street names that can be traced to Forbes' expedition. True, we have Denny, also plainly from the Denny family here and Maj. Ebenezer Denny, our first mayor, their ancestor. Gov. William Denny was an Englishman who returned to that country.

In the street naming that was necessary by reason of Woods' and Vickroy's plan of Pittsburgh in 1784, the first street running from Liberty to the Allegheny River received the name Marburg [sic], in compliment to Maj. Marburg [sic], a Continental soldier.

City's First Historian.

Neville B. Craig, son of Maj. Isaac Craig, is our best historian of Pittsburgh. Born here, he was prominent as a lawyer and editor for many years. He states that in a memorandum book of his father he found some notes and letters which throw some little light on affairs here about the time of the laying out of the town. He says in a letter dated July 25, 1784, Maj. Craig wrote:

Immediately after my return from Philadelphia to this place, I called upon Maj. Marburg [sic], who still continued to command here, and handed him the quartermaster general and the secretary of war's orders for part of the buildings and 500 pounds of iron, the former part of the order he said he would comply with, the latter he could not, because he had disposed of the iron in purchase of provisions and in payment of wagon hire. Lieut. Lucket has since succeeded Maj. Marburg [sic], and seems reluctant to give me possession of a building, so I have provided a house for the reception of the goods when they arrive and have a party employed in the preparation of timber for the cisterns, pumps, etc., for the Distillery.

Woods and Vickroy began their survey in May, 1784. Vickroy made most of the field notes and made the plans and many years later testified to the manner and methods employed. This document is yet on file in the city archives. In the fall of 1783 the Penns, John, Jr., and John, began to dispose of their holdings in their ancestral colony, that is to say, those that had not been confiscated by the Pennsylvania Legislature which in great magnanimity, allowed them all the manor lands and certain quit rents.

Cause of Narrow Streets.

Woods' survey was completed in June. The plan of Col. John Campbell of 1764 was allowed to stand. Concerning this and why certain streets, Market and Ferry for instance, are narrow, Vickroy gives interesting testimony.

Woods' name is preserved in Wood street. It is evident the final s merged into the succeeding s it being impossible to enunciate each owing to the excess of sibilance. Likewise Smithfield street, originally Smith's Fields street, from passing through the lands of Devereaux Smith, a pioneer trader and merchant and a sterling patriot.

Yet one has no trouble in pronouncing Ross street with three ss, named for James Ross, statesman and attorney, the new street passing his mansion. We have also Ross township and had Ross Grove, where a later mansion of James Ross stood, now the property of the estate of the late Robert C. Hall.

Thomas Vickroy's name is familiar in the street on Boyd's Hill between Bluff and Locust streets.

To come back to Woods' plan and the first sale of lots by the Penns. It was not until September 30, 1784, that the laying out of Pittsburgh was approved. This was the act of Tench Francis, their attorney. This name occurs in some histories "French Francis." Sales began immediately and there had been many applications for lots before the survey was traced on paper.

Previously, in January, 1784, there had been a sale by the Penns. This was the conveyance of all the ground between Fort Pitt and the Allegheny River "supposed to contain three acres" we are told. On this point Neville B. Craig states:

Subsequently to the date of that agreement, the proprietors concluded to lay out a town at the junction of the rivers so as to embrace within its limits the three acres agreed to be sold, as well as all the ground covered by the Fort.

We presume the purchasers of the three acres assented to this division of the ground, as they afterwards received a deed describing the ground, not by the acre, but by the meters [sic] and bounds fixed by the plan of the town, except that the lots on the Monongahela were described as extending to the river, instead of being limited by Water street, as the plan exhibits them.

The three acres accordingly passed into the possession of Craig and Bayard. In 1785 Maj. Craig built the two-story brick addition to the Block House and William Turnbull moved into it. He remained only one year, when Mr. Craig occupied it for two years.

In this historic pile Neville B. Craig was born March 29, 1787. His given name is the family name of his mother, who was Amelia Neville, only daughter of Gen. John Neville, and sister of Pressly Neville.

We have Craig street and Neville street, and Neville Island. There was also Craig street on the North Side, now Cremo street, and there was once a Neville street on the South Side, now Muriel. It is not known who put the cream in Cremo, but whoever did forgot to remove the flavor of a cheap cigar.

All Pittsburgh histories agree that Craig and Bayard waived their right to the individual three acres and accepted a block of lots, 32 in number, which covered all the ground in the three acres except that portion in the streets, and in addition all within the outworks of Fort Pitt.

William Turnbull mentioned above and his partners, Peter Marmie and John Holkar, constituted the firm of Turnbull, Marmie & Co. Craig and Bayard also became partners in this firm, purchasing the grounds on which Fort Pitt stood, which seems had remained vested in the proprietories [sic]. Maj. Craig naturally wanted possession.

The first venture of Craig and Bayard, and Turnbull, Marmie & Co., was the building of a distillery. Needless to state, they had no license.

None of these Philadelphia partners gave names to our streets. Col. Bayard was first remembered by the common name of Bayardstown, given to the borough of Northern Liberties, the territory between the Allegheny River and the hill, from the canal (Eleventh street) to about Nineteenth street, which became part of Pittsburgh in 1837. As the fifth Ward, subsequently the Ninth and Tenth Wards.

Within a few decades Col. Bayard has been remembered by the naming of a substantial street in the Schenley Farms locality. This was once a Craig property, much of it the inheritance of Mrs. Comings, formerly Isabella Craig.

Turnbull, Marmie & Co. purchased the buildings and material of Fort Pitt and demolished them.

The connection of Mrs. [sic] Craig and Bayard with the Philadelphia firm ceased in 1789, Bayard withdrawing a year earlier.

When the two took possession of the fort acreage they did not, it seems, lay out streets through it. That appears to have been done years later, for in the list of streets given by James M. Riddle in his directory of Pittsburgh in 1815, he states:

Those crossing Penn and Liberty are, beginning at the Monongahela River, Water, Marbury, Pitt, Cecils alley, St. Clair, Irwin, Irwins alley, Hand and Wayne streets.

This takes us up to the present Tenth street. There was no Hay street, later Fourth street, now Fancourt, and no Hancock, later Eighth street, alias Ellsmere.

Fort Acreage Streets.

In the Fort acreage two streets were laid out parallel to Marburg [sic]. These were named Point and Duquesne, the latter changed to Fort as conflicting with Duquesne way. A short street parallel with Penn running to Marburg [sic], called Croghan street, is shown in maps made in the decade 1850–1860. It lay between Penn street and Point alley, the directories state. Very old-timers may remember this. Its fate can only be ascertained by going through the city's street archives. It is clear it is not there now and that it commemorated Col. George Croghan, Indian agent and trader at Fort Pitt, a really great name in Pittsburgh's early history.

All this Point district we know has been vacated between the Monongahela and Third street, now Barebau [sic], and Penn avenue and Duquesne way. The Block House alone remains of early Pittsburgh in this locality.

Who Barbeau was is not known to many. His biography is not at hand. It is evident he was somebody but whether a greater and more distinguished body than Maj. Marbury has not been set forth. Seems there was a fellow of that name played on Barney Drefus' nine in late years. Undoubtedly the name Marbury was defunct when Barbeau came and took possession, by "his heirs, administrators or assigns," as it were.

We shall have to pass up Hay, unless it was so named from leading from Wood street to the old hay market on Duquesne way. Pitt, or Fifth street, now Stanwix, was sufficiently written up in last Sunday's story of the streets.

Early Ferry Road.

St. Clair, or Sixth, now Federal street, came next. This was early a ferry road, later a bridge street. It passed through the farm of James Robinson, the first settler on the North Side, and connected with the Federal road, now Federal street, North Side, the pioneer highway to the North, via Perrysville. This has a distinct and notable history.

To return to the consideration of Woods [sic] plan of Pittsburgh, Thomas Vickroy's account is complete and most interesting. The jurat to it reads:

Sworn and subscribed and taken this 16th day of December, A. D. 1841, in the presence of Moses Hampton, Esq., solicitor for the city of Pittsburgh, and James S. Craft, Esq., who appears as within stated between the hours of 8 o'clock a. m. and 5 o'clock p. m., at the house of Thomas Vickroy, St. Clair township, Bedford county. Before me.


The document reads:

I assisted George Woods, the elder, to lay out the town of Pittsburgh. He requested me to go with him as a surveyor and employed me in that capacity to lay out the town of Pittsburgh and to divide the Proprietary Manor into outlots and farms.

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the Month of May, 1784, and the first thing we did was to circumscribe the ground where he intended to lay a town out. We began up about where Grant street now is on the bank of the Monongahela and proceeded down the Monongahela according to the meandering of the river to its junction with the Allegheny River, then up the Allegheny on the bank, keeping on the bank to a certain distance up to about Washington street, from thence to Grant's Hill, thence along Grant's Hill to the place of beginning.

I made a draft of it in Mr. Woods' presence, throwing it into a large scale to see how it would answer to lay it out in lots and streets.

Ground Is Viewed.

After that there was a good deal of conversation. And the ground was viewed by Mr. Woods and the persons who lived at that place to fix on the best plan to lay out the town with the greatest convenience.

There had been lots laid out before, as I understand, called military lots, said to have been laid out by Mr. Campbell. There are four blocks on the plan contained between Market street and Ferry street. Water street and Second street, Mr. Woods expressed a desire to remodel so small streets and lots so as to make them larger, especially Market street. A number of inhabitants had small houses on those lots as they were laid out, these persons remonstrated and objected and gathered in a body together and would not have it done, saying it would destroy their property. Eventually Mr. Woods acquiesced in their wishes and laid out four lots (blocks) as they had been before. A rough draft of the plan was retained by me, and is hereto annexed marked in my handwriting: "Original draft kept by Thomas Vickroy."

I made about six copies of it and gave them to Mr. Woods. The original now identified remained in my possession until about the year 1827, when I handed it to Mr. Craig, but it is now again before me, and I now further identify it by having this day marked on it in my handwriting: "This draft presented to the city of Pittsburgh, December 16, 1841. Thomas Vickroy."

Mr. Woods having procured a pole and a great number of locust pins for the purpose of measuring and staking off the lots and streets, we then went to Samuel Ewalt's house, which stood at what is now the corner of Market and Water streets.

Houses as Markers.

Then we took the range of Water street from some houses that then stood on the bank of the Monongahela River, viz: Ormsby's, Galbraith's and others, and then measured below Ewalts' some distance, perhaps as far as the military lots, and laid them out and staked them. We then returned and began at Ewalt's house and laid out Market street and the Diamond and continued Market street to a certain point.

We then commenced and laid off Liberty street. After we had laid out Liberty street, we again commenced at Ewalt's and measured up the river on Water street to Wood street, which we laid out 60 feet wide, running it from Water street parallel with Market street through to Liberty street. We then laid out the blocks between Wood and Market streets through from Water street to Liberty street.

We then measured up Water street to Smithfield street, which we also laid out from Water street through to Liberty street 60 feet, making it parallel with Wood street, and then proceeded to lay out the blocks between Smithfield and Wood streets from Water through to Liberty. From Smithfield we went to lay out Cherry alley, making it 20 feet wide and running it from Water street to Liberty parallel with Smithfield street. We then laid out the block of lots between Smithfield street and Cherry alley through Water to Liberty street.

We then proceeded to Grant street, which we laid out 60 feet wide, making it parallel with Cherry alley, and then laid out the blocks of lots between Cherry alley and Grant street. We ran Grant street through from Water street to Liberty, making it end on Liberty.

It was the last street we laid out on that side of Liberty. We made Market street and Water street the bases of the blocks of surveys south of Liberty street, and we finished all the surveying and laying out lots on that side of Liberty street before we proceeded to the other side.

Good Locust Pins Used.

In making the survey of lots south of Liberty street we staked them all off with good locust pins. In making the survey of lots between Liberty and the Allegheny River we commenced, I think, at Marbury street and worked on up until we finished at Washington street, which was the last street we made. We made Washington street to run toward the Allegheny River, to Liberty street, where it ended.

The reason we stopped at Liberty street was, that if we had run across it, it would have run through a public street. Liberty street had been run and when we ran Grant street, we stopped at Liberty street as running to a public street, and when we ran Washington street we stopped at Liberty street for the same reason. Washington street was 60 feet wide.

Those streets, viz., Grant and Washington, did not meet because there was a public street between them; I cannot recollect whether there was an offset or not, we made no offset, but to the best of my knowledge the draft hereto annexed which I have identified is correct. I made it immediately after the survey. I made it from my field notes directly after my return from Pittsburgh.

There was no connection between Washington street and Grant street, a public street intervened. There was no surplus ground over and above the lots between Market street and Grant street to the best of my recollection. We drew a line along the outside of the last row of lots 60 feet wide from Grant street; the street and lots were all measured with a pole and not with a chain.

The first survey made I called a circumscribing survey, the object of it was to get a general view of the ground to enable us to lay out the town. None of the streets were fixed by it, not even Washington or Grant. It was run with a chain and we threw it away and made no further use of it except to plot by it the ground north of Liberty and below Marbury street, that ground was then occupied by a military post and we could not survey it. Water street was to extend in width from the base line we established at Ormsby's house to low water mark in the river, and this width was to prevail through its length from Grant street to the Point.

Water Street Trouble.

In laying out Water street there was another murmuring of the inhabitants, complaining that the street was too narrow. Mr. Woods said they would be digging cellars and then they would fill up the gulleys and make a fine street.

There was a narrow place at the mouth of Ferry street, and lower down also there was a great gut at the mouth of Wood street, which made an ugly crossing. We set no pins at the south side of Water street, for it was to go to low water mark.

We ran no outside lines either on Washington or Grant streets. We staked off the lots and marked them, then we left 60 feet for those streets outside. We completed the work in June, 1784.

In laying out the lots we might have missed an inch or so. We did not leave an inch knowingly. And further deponent saith not.


This survey is acknowledged a good one and figures in all deeds as George Woods' plan of Pittsburgh. Campbell's plan, or the military plan, was shown in The Gazette Times of Sunday, November 29, last. Water street did not terminate at the Point, but continued around along the Allegheny.

Notwithstanding the plain statements of Vickroy the survey of Water street gave rise to long and vexatious litigation. Samuel Ewalt was a large owner of land in Lawrenceville. Forty-fourth street was originally named for him.

The colonial document, the fac simile herewith contains a number of names, among them those appended of men who were notable in our early history, four remembered in street names.