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Violet F. Rowe
The Glenshaw Story
By VIOLET F. ROWE
(Reproduced with permission)
Let us look back to the year of 1800,
when John Shaw, Sr. purchased six hun-
dred acres of land. He built a log sawmill
on Pine Creek to prepare the lumber for
his house, built on Glenshaw Avenue.
Then he built a log grist mill which stood
until 1845, when his son, John, Jr.,
replaced it with a much larger brick grist
mill. This mill stood on the property
across from the present Glenshaw
In 1826 Thomas Wilson Shaw built
the brick house which still stands along
Butler Plank Road and is presently oc-
cupied by his great-granddaughters, Mrs.
Dan Tatom and Dr. Katharine L Shaw.
In this year of 1835, Thomas Shaw
built a sickle factory on Pine Creek, not
far above his home. Long bladed reaping
sickles were made from steel imported
from Russia. This steel had lobe ordered
two years in advance. The factory was
run by water power, and about a dozen
men were employed. When the factory
ceased to operate, the building was con-
verted into a dwelling, and later became
our first Sunday School and Church.
The first school was a stone building
on the James Shaw farm on the other
side of Mt. Royal Blvd., directly across
from the North Hills Library. The first
teacher was David Hiland, who boarded
with John Shaw. The next school was
built in the woods on Kieber Rd. There
were no bridges over Pine Creek, and the
children who lived on the other side of
the creek had to be taken over on rafts by
the men working in the sickle factory.
About 1840, John Shaw, Jr. opened a
coal mine on the Spencer property, the
present site of Mr. & Mrs. Frank
Hutchison's house. The mine supplied
Spang's Mill in Etna, then called
Stewartstown. The coal was hauled by
six-horse teams up Glenshaw Ave, to the
Butler Pike-now Mt. Royal Blvd. In
1845 a tramway was built from the mine
along Pine Creek to Spang's Mill, a dis-
tance of three and one-half miles. These
cars held fifty bushels of coal, and people
often rode to Etna on top of one of these
cars of coal. For Sundays a car was clean-
ed out and two boards laid across to
provide transportation for anyone
wishing to attend church in Etna or
When the West Penn Railroad was
completed, Spang got their coal from up
the river, and the Shaw coal mine was
practically abandoned. Mr. Shaw kept a
few miners to supply coal to the people in
the neighborhood, and when the farmers
came in the autumn to haul their winter's
supply of coal it was a common sight to
see thirty or forty wagons at the mine at
Thomas Wilson Shaw also opened a
coal mine above the tunnel in 1840.
When the mine was at its best, about 16
hundred bushels of coal would be taken
out daily. Aithough there were only three
houses near the mine, it became known
as Coal Dale, due to the fact that it was a
coaling station for the engines on the
railroad. The houses were torn down
when the cut was made at Mt. Royal, and
the course of the creek was changed.
Of course, no village In the early days
was complete without a blacksmith shop.
The first shop in Glenshaw was opened
in Huckleberry Flat, now Spencer Lane,
in 1850 by Mr. Joseph Hunter, Besides
shoeing horses, he made the horseshoes
and also the horseshoe nails. He charged
18 cents for a new shoe and 9 cents for
removing and replacing one shoe. Dur-
ing the Civil War he made chains for
harnesses to be used in the Army.
The same year the DeHaven School
was built, and the Braun School was built
a few years later.
The Butler Plank Road was laid out
between Pittsburgh and Butler in 1852
and was considered one of the finest
pieces of engineering in Western Penn-
sylvania. Although chartered under the
name of Butler Plank Road, the planks
were not laid until the early seventies.
The first road was flagstone, taken from
the quarry on the hill between Wittmer
When the Plank Road was graded, the
stage coach, which had formerly run on
the Butler Pike, transferred its route to
the Plank Road. This stage carried
passengers and mail between Pittsburgh
and Butler, taking 14 hours for a trip one
way. The people thought nothing of
waiting many hours for a stage coach.
Shortly after the Plank Road was built,
the first post office in Glenshaw was
opened in small store building in the
John Shaw yard. Mr. William Shaw was
postmaster. The post office was discon-
tinued when the West Penn Railroad was
built in Butler in 1864. The mail was then
carried by train, and the Glenshaw peo-
ple had to go to Etna for their mail.
In 1870 Mr. Shaw built the first ice
house beside the old mill race, near
where the B. & 0. Station now stands.
Several ice houses were built, making a
very profitable business. Ice ponds were
delightful places to skate, and people
came for miles to enjoy this winter sport.
In 1875 fire bricks used on steam
boats were made on a small scale In a
yard in Huckleberry Flat.
When the Pittsburgh and Western
narrow gauge railroad was built through
Glenshaw in 1877, a Post Office was
again opened in a small room at the rear
of the grist mill wtih Miss Nancy Shaw as
Postmistress. Later she put up a new
building near the mill and opened a store
in connection wtth the Post Office.
The Glenshaw or Shawtown children
attended the Braun School until 1865
when a brick school house was built on
the Fall Run property, but this building
soon proved too small, and plans were
made for a new school. While four rooms
of the present Glenshaw School were be-
ing built, it was necessary to equip a room
in the old grist mill for the primary
The American Natural Gas Company
was formed in 1887. Its first gas was
found in Hampton Township. Not hav-
ing meters at first, families were charged
according to the number of fires and
In 1888 the Pittburgh Coal Company
leased the Fall Run property. A company
Store and two rows of red houses, known
as Red Row, were built. Coal at this time
was 7-1/2 cents per bushel, and about one
hundred men were employed. All the
trees large enough for pit posts were cut
down, and the ferns and wild flowers-
which had always made Fall Run one of
the beauty spots of Western Penn-
sylvania were trampled out.
In 1892 the Post office burned and
was replaced with a brick structure in
1893 by Mr. McMlllan.
It was June 21, 1893, when Mr. & Mrs.
Walter Shaw were among the first to ride
on the Ferris Wheel at the World's Fair in
Chicago. Mr. Shaw was the lnspecting
engineer and was associated with the
builder, Mr. George Washington Gales
The Reverend J.F.R. Currie, pastor of
the Valley Church, started the first library
in 1896. He selected the books,
catalogued them and acted as librarian.
When he left Glenshaw, the library was
neglected and the books not in circula-
Four men, each putttng up six hun-
dred dollars, built the Glenshaw Glass
Factory. On January 7, 1895, the first
bottle was made by Pete McClafferty.
There were ten employees. Mr. Jacob
Meyer joined the company in August of
that year and relieved a financial em-
The first barber shop In Glenshaw was
opened in 1898 by Mr. Philip Hartz. It
was this year that four rooms were added
the Glenshaw School, making It a two-
In 1900 Glenshaw Glass Company
bought their present location, across the
road from the first factory, and a two-year
high school course was added at the
In 1902 Mrs. H. C. Shaw, along with
some other women of the community,
became interested in the library and had
the books removed from the church to
the building which stood below the
church on Pine Creek. A group of men
had erected this building to be used as a
Store and lodge room, but it proved to be
a failure and became a white elephant.
Mrs. Haines was the librarian at this time.
At the turn of the century, America
was progressing rapidly-Congress pass-
ed the Gold Standard Act, Major Reed
discovered that the mosquito was the
cause of yellow fever, and the popular
means of transportation were the horse
and buggy and the bicycle. The days of
the bicycle races in the '90's were big
events in the lives of people of Glenshaw.
Many can still remember the numbers of
the racers' backs and lemons in their
mouths as they rode from Etna to
Bakerstown. Bert Goebel was champion
racer in those days. The popularity of the
bicycle was reflected by the most popular
song of the '90's-"Daisybell."
In 1903 the Bell Telephone Company
had its beginning in Glenshaw with a
small switchboard in the back of James
This was also the year Ford Motor
Company was founded, and the first
transcontinental auto trip was completed
from San Francisco to New York--it took
ten weeks. At the turn of the century
there was but one auto for every 9,500
persons, and not ten miles of concrete
road. George Wittmer, Jr. owned the first
automobile in Glenshaw, and Dr. Ray,
the second. Yes, the automobile was
becoming very fashionable, and those
who were lucky enough to own one wore
dusters or loose coats to ward off the
dust. Chiffon veils were tied over hats,
and dark glasses were worn to complete
the motoring outfit.
In the year 1903, the Wright brothers
made their first successful flight at Kitty
Hawk, North Carolina. In 1904, the
Congress of Mothers worked for laws to
restrict child labor, preventing children
under 16 from working nights and il-
literates under 16 from working at all.
The Panama Canal was begun this year,
the Olympic games were held for the first
time in the United States, and everyone
was talking about the stage play, "Mrs.
Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch."
This same year on May 19 a fire of un-
known origin completely razed the
Glenshaw Glass Company, along with
the ice houses belonging to the Wittmer
Ice Company across the road. The fac-
tory was rebuilt, and in exactlv 21 days
they were again making bottles. March
3, 1904, was the date of the big flood in
Glenshaw. The flood washed away all
bridges on Pine Creek and caused much
property damage. The water came
through the tunnel, making it level
between the hills. These two disasters
coming so close together almost ruined
the Glenshaw Glass Company. Coal
mining was also ended in Glenshaw.
When the miners left, only six rooms
were needed in the school, so the par-
titions were removed between the rooms
on the second floor, making an
auditorium for public meeting. Time
passes until the year 1907. The Ball
Chemical Company, originally from
Millvale, built at Wittmer Station on the
property once occupied by the Wittmer
Ice Company, the ice business becoming
a thing of the past. Elmer J. Nicklas es-
tablished the Coat and Builders Supply
Yard, and Glenshaw Glass installed a
new machine to make jars, thus
eliminating making them by hand.
In 1910, the Plank Road was replaced
with brick and warrenite. The road was
completed in 1912 and is now State
Highway Route 8, the main highway
between Pittsburgh and Erie.
In 1916 a recommendation was made
to have an effective censorship of moving
pictures, and efforts were made to teach
English to every foreign-born mother as
soon as she arrived in this country.
Our country was in the midst of World
War I. The Reverend Baker left to enlist
in the service. Out of thirty-five Glenshaw
boys, Robert Leight Titzel was the only
one to lose his life in the war. In the
school yard a tree has been planted to his
In 1917 the Thomas Spacing Machine
Company was built at Wittmer Station.
This was an asset to the community, for
75 men were employed, manufacturing
spacing machines, punches, shears and
The Glenshaw Glass Company suf-
fered greatly from another fire, and
Prohibition made thousands of dollars of
beer bottles stock worthless. Mr. Samuel
Meyer was elected General Manager
when the factory was rebuilt. This mark-
ed a new era in the history of Glenshaw
Glass, for now the main products were
pop bottles and food containers.
In 1924 to meet the demands of a
rapidly growing population along the
Butler Pike, the high school was moved
to the Braun School.
This year the library was again moved
back to the "white elephant" with 300
books to meet the needs of both voung
and old. This was the period that the
crossword puzzle took the nation by
storm, and Paul Whiteman performed
Gershwin's famous "Rhapsody in Blue"
for the first time in New York.
On September 14, 1927, "William
Crooks," the first B. & O. train, under its
own power and with several Indians on
board from Glacier National Park, pass-
ed through Glenshaw on its way to the
Centenary Exhibition of the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad at Baltimore,
When the bottom fell out of the stock
market in 1929, it put the country in a
great depression. In November, 1930 the
first Presbyterian Home for the Aged was
opened in Glenshaw by Mrs. Martha
Kelly, sister-in-law to Wilson A. Shaw. In
1931 Moortgat Studios, designers of ar-
tificial flowers and foliage, moved to their
present location of Vilsack Rd.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was
elected President of the United States in
1932. The Works Progress Ad-
ministraton (WPA) was set up to increase
employment. Men in this group built the
stone wall, steps and fence around the
Glenshaw School, and young men in the
C.C.C. Camps helped build many state
parks and dams that we enjoy today.
In 1936 flood which caused much
damage to Pittsburgh by-passed
Glenshaw, the worst damage being only
one-and-a-half inches of water in the
cellars of the houses next to the creek.
On December 7, 1941, the North Hills
Library held ground breaking
ceremonies for their new building on Mt.
Royal Blvd. It was this fateful Sunday
afternoon when we heard that the
Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.
Our country was plunged into World War
The North Hills Library held open-
house in September, 1942. The reading
group of the North Hills Women's Club
was the forerunner of this library. The
Presbyterian Home for Aged moved to
the house on the corner of Glenshaw
Avenue and the Butler Plank Road this
It was in the 40's that Glen Miller was
the idol of the Bobby Soxers, and Kate
Smith introduced the song she made so
famous, "God Bless America."
In 1944 the Lower Glenshaw Library
Association purchased the "white
elephant" when the owners threatened
to tear it down. The first floor room was
made into a memorial to Miss Mary Sim-
mons, the first librarian. In the front win-
dows of the library, two lamps burn night-
ly. They were givn by Mr. & Mrs. G. P.
Thomas as a memorial to their sons
Robert and Edgar. The ceiling lights at
the library were presented by Mrs. Louis
Statler in memory of her son, Louis.
On May 8, 1945, we celebrated V-E
Day. On July first of that year the Post Of-
fice moved into its present building. Mr.
Edgar retired from his duties as Post-
master in May, 1949, and Mr. George V.
Baitler. our present Postmaster, was ap-
With the growth of the township, the
600-student high school located on Mt.
Royal Blvd. was overcrowded. In 1950
plans were drawn up to erect a new high
school building and to convert the old
building into a junior high school.
Ground was broken in 1951, and the
building was in partial use by the winter of
The Kiwanis Club of Glenshaw
purchased 22 acres of land in May, 1951,
to be used as a community park. This
area is still being developed and im-
proved each year for the benefit of the
residents in the community.
The Mount Royal Shopping Center
became a part of the township scene in
March, 1952, proving popular with the
ever-increasing number of suburban
In 1959-the lower Glenshaw Library
was completely remodeled, the new
junior high school on Scott Avenue was
opened in September, Route 8 has
become a four-lane highway, and
Burchfield Road is the fastest growing
section in Glenshaw.
Such has been "The Glenshaw
Story"-a community rich in history,
tradition and service to God.
Did you know:
Miss Mary Simmons was the
first Librarian of Glenshaw. For
25 years she was the Librarian
of the Glenshaw Free Library.
Dr. Sturges(Sturgis?) (photo below)
was the first doctor in Glenshaw. He
was located near the Old Glenshaw Post
Joseph Selnak was the first
policeman of Shaler. Mr. Selnak
had the jail built in his home-
two cells, with steel bars and
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