An Excerpt from Arthur M. Fording's
Recollections and Reminiscences
of West End -- Pittsburgh, PA
LOCATION AND EARLY SETTLEMENT
Probably the name of the first settler and the date of his settlement
in the West End section that I am trying to say something about, will never
be known now. It is not likely that there were any white settlers in the
Saw Mill Run Valley when Washington spoke so highly of the 'Point' or the
confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers as a suitable location
for a fort, but it is to be presumed that the completion of Fort Duquesne
and its later permanent occupation as Fort Pitt by the British and maybe
possibly before that, an occasional settler found his way to and stopped
in the Saw Mill Run Valley.
I wonder what it was called in those days. Probably no name had yet been
given. It must have been a beautiful place, a small valley enclosed by hills
on four sides, no doubt heavily timbered with a bright sparkling spring flowing
throughout its length
When Allegheny County was formed September 24th 1788, there were
seven townships included within its limits of which St. Clair was one and
a large one too. The records describe it as follows: 'beginning at Chartiers
Creek, thence up the Ohio River to the mouth of the Monongahela River, thence
along said river to the Mouth of Streets Run, thence up said Run to The bead
thereof, thence by straight line to the line or the County, thence by said
line to the mouth of Millers Run on Chartiers Creek and down said Creek to
the place of beginning.
Out of this was carved Union, Chartiers and Robinson and probably some
other townships, but it is principally of Union and Chartiers Townships I
will treat, as that part of the West End section I have in mind lay almost
entirely within these two and Lower St. Clair Township.
That portion of the West End Section from the Point Bridge to Saw Mill
Run was originally a part of Lower St. Clair Township, but before becoming
a part of the present City of Pittsburgh it had been incorporated as the
Boro of West Pittsburgh.
What was formerly the old thirty-sixth ward and all of the old thirty-fifth
ward south or Mt. Washington, was originally St. Clair Township, later Union
and Chartiers Townships.
From one of the histories of Allegheny County we find that Chartiers
Township was created by an Act of Assembly April 12th 1851, in the following
"Beginning on the line of Upper St. Clair Township at the farm of William
Espy, thence northwardly, as near as practicable, following the dividing
ridge separating the waters of Little Saw Mill Run and Plummers Run, and
from thence by the most approved route to High Street on the brow of Coal
Hill, thence by said High Street to the line of Pittsburgh.
That all that portion of said township lying westwardly of said line shall
constitute a separate election and school district and shall be known by the
name of Chartiers Township".
This is said to be the only township in Allegheny County formed by any
other authority than the Court of Quarter Sessions. Chartiers Township, Chartiers
Creek and what is now generally termed the Chartiers Valley was named after
one Peter Chartier. He was a half breed and an Indian trader and was very
active among the Delaware Tribe of Indians, and the location of his trading
post was probably near the mouth of the Chartiers Creek, which stream bore
his name at an early date.
The importance of this Creek in early days may be inferred from the fact
that an Act of Congress was passed before the War of 1812 declaring it navigable
and a public highway forever.
It might have been navigable in those days, but from the tine I can first
remember it I never knew it to be deep enough or wide enough to accommodate
more than a skiff or canoe. The early histories of the County tell us "that
no township therein can boast of a more interesting history. Its settlement
was very early, its Indian lore thrilling and its early log fortifications
The term Chartiers Valley might justly comprehend all the territory drained
by Chartiers Creek which would extend from the Ohio River at McKees Rocks
back into Washington County where it has its source, but the term is usually
applied only to a small section of it containing a square mile, 'where the
Creek comes gracefully along its Western bounds and precipitous hills rising
in the east".
This valley is completely surrounded by high hills and rapids and a high
bluff above its neighbors on the southeast overlooks the whole".
This valley referred to is the site of the Thornburg Golf course and the
high bluff is probably the site of the Chartiers Heights Country Club.
As early probably as 1820 there stood in the above mentioned valley
a very large log building known as 'Hands Hospital'. It was about 100 feet
long and 30 feet wide, 'two stories high, with a porch extending entirely
around it. There were two doors, one on either side but no windows, and
two partitions divided it into three rooms above and below. Several block
houses surrounded it at some distance, probably a half dozen or more.
The hospital was, no doubt, built by General Hand while he was in command
of Fort Pitt, which at that tine was an unhealthy place and this Hospital
was probably to care for his sick soldiers.
Nothing now remains of these buildings or anything else, to mark the spot,
except the old wells and some rotten wood.
There has been found there, however, from time to time, grape shot, 12-lb.
cannon balls, surgical instruments, and various other articles. The finding
of these cannon balls would seem to indicate that the block houses were fortifications.
Where the bridge now crosses Chartiers Creek connecting Crafton and Thornburg
there used to be a ford called "Brodhead's' Ford" and a postoffice placed
near there also called Brodhead named after Colonel Brodhead, who was stationed
at Pittsburgh during 1780 and 1787, and who was a prominent figure in the
Whiskey Insurrection later, which outbreak was a revolt of the people of
Western Pennsylvania against the attempt of the government to collect an
excise tax on whiskey, and probably no section of the State was more incensed
than were those in the southwestern part of Allegheny County and Washington
County, for in those days there were no temperance societies. Everyone seemingly,
high and low, great and small, rich and poor, male and female, clergy and
laity, made free use of whiskey, and it was as common as bread and meat and
many of the people made their own.
The old thirty sixth ward, as far back at least as between 1825 and 1830
was known as 'Elliott's Delight', owned by one West Elliott, son of David
This property comprising about ninety six acres was conveyed to West Elliott
by Ezekiel Harker, Sept. 11, 1832, was sold at Sheriff's Sale Nov. 23, 1835
to John B. Warden, John Alexander and James S. Craft. In July, 1837, Craft
conveyed his interest to Warden and Alexander and on Sept. 16, 1837 a plan
of lots was filed and recorded and known as "Warden and Alexander's Plan
of Temperanceville Village, St. Clair Township'.
Most of the lots were sold or leased subject to an annual ground rent,
one of the provisions of the said deeds and leases being that no intoxicating
liquors were to be sold upon the premises.
Lots Nos. 159, 160 and 161 were leased to David Carnahan, the third husband
of my great grand mother (Patience Charity Crippen) in 1847, sold by him
to Patterson his son-in-law and my maternal grand father, willed by him to
my mother and by her to me. I had the ground rent extinguished in 1900 and
sold the property in 1920.
No doubt the records will show when the Indian Title relinquished and
who was the first patentee from the Commonwealth, but I never learned the
What used to be Esplen Boro, Elliott Boro and Sheraden Boro, were all originally
part of St. Clair Township, later Chartiers Township.
Bridgeville, Carnegie, Heidleberg, Crafton and Ingram Boroughs were also.
Temperanceville became a Borough January 1, 1860, and was annexed to the
City of Pittsburgh January 1, 1873, as was also West Pittsburgh Borough.
Sheraden, Elliott and Esplen were all admitted to the City of Pittsburgh
many years later.
Little settlements known by distinctive names comprised the West End Section,
although never having a corporate existence.
Thus we had Crotsburg, up near the Point Bridge. The territorial limits
of Temperanceville commenced about where the West Side Belt Railroad crosses
Steuben and South Main Streets up the Saw Mill Run Valley to the Old Stone
Tavern On the Run, and about to Schmelz' Brewery on Steuben street and comprising
part of the hillside on the westerly side of Steuben Street and also that
part of the hill adjoining the old Noblestown Road and South Main Street.
Reesville was on the easterly side of Saw Mill Run between old Bridge
Street (later Park Way and now Plank Street) up the Run to where it is crossed
by Independence Street on old Washington Pike.
Tinkersville lay between the Old Stone Tavern and the site of the present
brick works of James T. Fox.
Shalerville lay beyond that to the foot of Mt. Washington.
When I was a boy Elliott Boro was known as "Dogtown" and "River Hill,"
the dividing line being Chartiers Avenue and the hill abutting the old Noblestown
Plank Road, lying in the limits of the old thirty sixth ward was and is still
known as "Church Hill" although there in not a church on it.
As far as I have been able to learn, a man named John Bell was probably
the first white settler to permanently locate in that portion of old St.
Clair Township from which Robinson, Scott, Chartiers and Union Townships
were afterward formed. He settled in what is now known as Robinson Township
in 1768, while the whole territory was still swarming with Indians. It is
said of him that the Indians never molested him, which is more than some
of his neighbors could say. Many of his descendents still live in Robinson
Township and are all well to do and highly respected, and one of them, Mr.
W. Wallace Bell is a resident of the West End on Church Hill, and with whom
I am very well acquainted.
Isaac Sellers, who came from Virginia, was another first settler, he located
in what later became known as Union Township, on a plot of ground now owned
by the Carnahan Heirs at Banksville, another old family. This was in 1773.
The next year, or 1774, James Kearns and William Chess came from Ireland
and settled in what was then St. Clair Township, later Union Township and
now Green Tree Borough. It is said that Kearns was granted a tract of 300
acres for clearing it and living upon it. Be that as it may, it is certain
that he became possessed of a large tract of land.
He is an ancestor of my wife, being her maternal great grand father.
He was an active Indian hunter, frequently going long distances with others
on Indian Raids in retaliation for their depredations on White settlers.
His son Thomas, had a family of eight sons and seven daughters, one of
the latter (Charlotte) who married John Heaps, being my wife's mother.
Thomas' sons, Uriah, Abner and Jerome were left a part each of the old
homestead and owned it until their death.
Leonard, another son, resided in Carnegie many years prior to his death.
Source: Recollections and Reminiscences of West End -- Pittsburgh, PA (undated)
By Arthur M. Fording
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