From Pittsburgh Streets

"Street names sketch history of city: Tribute to many pioneers dimmed by time." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 26, 1936, anniversary section IV, p. 16. 88921069.

Street Names Sketch History of City
Tribute to Many Pioneers Dimmed by Time

STREET names, their significance long forgotten or never known by present day Pittsburghers, are the only memorials to the memory of many of the pioneer soldiers and settlers who a century and a half ago created a town in the wilderness at the headwaters of the Ohio.

But the naming of a street for a great man is an ephemeral honor. In a growing, changing city old street names are lost. A new generation lops off a name without a twinge of feeling. O'Hara street, named for General James O'Hara, the district's largest landholder in pioneer days, became Twelfth street. Hand street, so named by grateful friends of General Edward Hand, the physician who was in command of Fort Pitt in 1777, becomes Ninth street.

Fifth Avenue's History.

The present Fifth avenue has been named and renamed until today its colorless title gives no hint of his history. Originally it was called Braddock's Field road. Then in 1807 when the important Pittsburg–Greensburg turnpike was constructed, the section between Grant street and Point Breeze was called the Fourth Street road although its corporate name was the Farmers and Mechanics Turnpike road. Another change came when the city ordinance gave the road west of Soho the name Pennsylvania avenue and changed the city end of the street from Fourth to Fifth street, it was not until 1876 that the present name was given to the entire street from the city to Point Breeze.

Still enough of the old names cling, however, to make any listing of Pittsburgh's streets a brief biographical outline of her great men of the early days—at least to those who take the trouble to find out the story back of the names.

Still other streets take their names from Indians or Indian words impressed on the settlers by the red men. Although for years the worst fear of these pioneers was the horrors of capture or death at the hands of Indians on the warpath they found staunch friends in some of the savages. There was the great Chief Guyasuta who from the first visit of Washington to the wilderness until the close of the Revolution befriended the white men. There was the Indian queen, Allequippa, who lived on the site of McKeesport about 1755, and whose royal name is now on a dingy Hill district street.

Tribute to Modest Man.

Forbes street is a name-tribute to the modest man whose name should rightly have been immortalized in the name of the city. But General John Forbes, whose march through the wilderness made the French Fort Duquesne the property of England's king on Saturday night, November 25, 1758, preferred to honor his friend, William Pitt, who had sent him to the new world to insure England's colonial supremacy.

So today the city is Pittsburgh instead of Forbesburgh.

And General Forbes' name is given only to a portion of the road which his men hewed and cut from the virgin wilderness. That is Pittsburgh's tribute to the man whose story is one of the most tragic and heroic of all England's great generals. For General Forbes was suffering from a mortal and agonizing illness as he forced his way from the east over the mountains. It became necessary for his men to carry him in a litter. But he would not give up. Then, his object accomplished, he died, while England was preparing to honor him, in Philadelphia, March 11, 1759.

Keys to Interesting Stories.

Many other street names give the keys to equally as interesting stories. Here is the background of some of them:

Braddock avenue—named for the general whose army hewed the road for the first tragic and ill-fated expedition to Fort Duquesne.

Halket street—for Sir Peter Halket, a Scotchman, one of the soldiers massacred with Braddock's army. The story is that his son, seeing him fall, dashed to his side and fell dead on his father's body, killed by a French bullet.

Bouquet street—for Colonel Henry Bouquet, the Swiss soldier who, at the battle of Bushy Run, August 6, 1763, broke the backbone of the conspiracy of the Indian chief Pontiac. He then pushed on with General Forbes to make a new route to Fort Duquesne.

Stanwix street—for General John Stanwix, who succeeded General Forbes in command of Fort Pitt. He built new fortifications and died soon after in a tragic shipwreck in the Irish Sea.


Dinwiddie street—for the Scotch governor of Virginia, who first realized the inroads the French were making in the Ohio valley and sent appeals for aid to England, troops to build a fort at the Ohio headwaters. The French arrived before his men had completed their fort, drove them out and built their own Fort Duquesne.

Chatham street—for William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, for whom the city was named by General Forbes.

Smallman street—for Captain Thomas Smallman, an Indian trader and one of the garrison at Fort Pitt.

Smithfield street—for Devereux Smith, a friend of John Penn, a pioneer Indian trader and one of Pittsburgh's first storekeepers. Originally the street was Smith's Field street.

Bayard street—for Stephen Bayard, captain in the Revolutionary army who settled in Pittsburgh. Later he founded a boatbuilding industry on the Monongahela

Ross street—for United States Senator James Ross, the first enrolled member of the Pittsburgh bar, whose apple orchard once covered the ground where the Court House now stands.


Bedford avenue—for Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, surgeon of Fort Pitt, an incorporator of Pittsburgh Academy in 1787, burgess of Pittsburgh in 1806.

Kirkpatrick street—for Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, commissioner general of the Western Army during the Whisky Insurrection, whose barn on Coal Hill (across from the city on the south bank of the Monongahela) was burned by the insurrectionists.

Denny street—for Ebenezer Denny, first mayor of Pittsburgh.

Darragh street—for John Darragh, second mayor of Pittsburgh, 1817–1825.

Murray avenue—for Magnus M. Murray, fourth mayor of Pittsburgh.

Steuben street—for Baron von Steuben, the brave German who joined Washington at Valley Forge.

Wood street—for George Woods, the surveyor who laid out the triangle in a plan of lots in 1784 for the Penns.

Jumonville street—for the French captain who was killed at Great Meadows.

Craig street—for Major Isaac Craig, quartermaster at the fort, who became one of the first of Pittsburgh's business men.


Butler street—for the family of general Richard Butler, Indian trader and soldier.

Montour way—for Captain Montour, a half-breed and an ally of the English in the pioneer days before the building of Fort Pitt. He acted as scout, guide and interpreter for Washington on his first trips into Western Pennsylvania.

Negley avenue—for the family of Jacob Negley who once owned most of what is now East Liberty. The name, originally spelled Nageli, means a little nail and is the name of a pink blossom which grows on Swiss hillsides.

Highland avenue—formerly Hiland road, for James Hiland who surveyed Jacob Negley's land and divided it into eight equal shares for his heirs.

Winebiddle avenue—for Conrad Winebiddle whose home was on the banks of the Allegheny river, between the mouth of Two Mile run and the present Arsenal grounds in the days when Indian canoes instead of coal barges went up and down the river.

Stockton avenue—for Reverend Joseph Stockton, an early principal of the Pittsburgh Academy, who organized the First Presbyterian Church on the north side of the Allegheny.


General Robinson street—for General William Robinson, the first white child born in old Allegheny. He was a lawyer and first mayor of Allegheny. His home on the river bank, called Buena Vista, gave the name to another Northside street.

Lacock street—for General Abner Lacock, once a member of Congress.

Anderson street—for Major William Anderson, a Revolutionary officer.

Tannehill street—for General Adamson Tannehill, one of the first chief burgesses elected after the borough of Pittsburgh was incorporated.

Breckenridge avenue—probably a corruption of the name of Hugh H. Brackenridge, a lawyer, who was one of the first writers for the Pittsburgh "Gazette," 1786.

Larimer avenue—for General William Larimer. The present day avenue was a lane leading from his estate to Frankstown road.

Devilliers street—for Coulon de Villiers, a brother of Captain Jumonville, who led an attack on Fort Necessity after the defeat and death of his brother at the hands of Washington.

Oakland avenue—for the estate of William Eichbaum, who in 1796 came to Pittsburgh to take charge of the first glass plant west of the Allegheny mountains. His name in German meant "oak tree" and, since there were oaks on his estate, he called it Oakland.

Brushton avenue—for Jared M. Brush, one of the early mayors of Pittsburgh.


A few of the many streets with Indian names are:

Blackhawk street—for a subordinate chief of the Sauk and Fox Indians and a leader in the Blackhawk war of 1832. In the War of 1812 he joined the British and fought for them.

Calumet street—for the "calumet" or pipe of peace used by the Indians on ceremonial occasions.

Sagamore street—a corruption of sang 'man, an Indian word for a chief or ruler of a tribe.

Shannopin street—for a Delaware chief.

Winamack street—meaning catfish in Indian. The name of a chief during the War of 1812.

Sandusky street—from the Indian word for "cool water."

Oneida street—from the Indian words meaning "a rock that something has set up and which is still standing." Also the name of an Indian tribe in New York.

The names of Pittsburgh's three rivers are also of Indian derivation. "The best and fairest street" is supposed to be the meaning of the word Allegheny in the language of the Delaware Indians. There was said to have been a race of Indians by that name living on the river bank.

Monongahela is a word of Algonquin origin meaning "high banks breaking off in some places and tumbling down." It came from the appearance of the river's banks in pre-white men days.

Ohio is derived from the Iroquois word "Ohionhiio," meaning "beautiful river."