Boundary and municipal changes make research difficult in the Bridgeville area
By John Oyler
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Our efforts to research information about the Bridgeville area in the early days is frequently frustrated by our not knowing for sure what jurisdiction is appropriate for this region during a specific time frame. This column is an effort to record what we know and what we speculate regarding this subject.
Before the settlers arrived, this area was controlled by the Iroquois Confederation, who had conquered it from the Allegewi. By the mid-1700s, both France and England laid claim to this area. Capt. Celeron de Blainville descended the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers in 1749 and buried lead plates, documenting France's claim to the Ohio country.
Shortly thereafter the Virginian Ohio Company began to occupy the same area by sending a small group of Virginians to the Forks of the Ohio to build Fort Prince George as evidence of their claim.
The French responded with a large expedition of French and Canadian troops, supplemented by an equally large number of Indians. Fort Prince George was surrendered to the superior force and replaced by the French Fort Duquesne.
After unsuccessful expeditions led by Washington and by Gen. Edward Braddock, in 1758 Gen. John Forbes defeated the French, and replaced Fort Duquesne with Fort Pitt. This was the end of French influence in North America.
English sovereignty over the Ohio country immediately triggered a dispute between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia regarding ownership of this region. Pennsylvania claimed it as part of Cumberland County; Virginia, as part of Augusta County.
In 1771, Bedford County was formed from the western part of Cumberland; two years later, Westmoreland County was formed from Bedford, with its county seat at Hanna's Town, near Greensburg. The area west of the Monongahela was designated Pitt Township. Virginia responded by establishing Yoghogania County, with its country seat at Pittsburgh.
The advent of the Revolutionary War postponed resolution of the dispute until 1781. That year the two states agreed to a compromise that gave Virginia what is now the West Virginia Panhandle and established Pennsylvania's current western border.
Pennsylvania then established Washington County, covering all the land south of the Ohio River and west of the Monongahela. A map of the county in 1787 shows the area west of Chartiers Creek in Cecil Township; that east of the creek, in Dickinson Township. Initially Peters Township extended north to the Monongahela River. In 1786 Dickinson Township was formed from the northern part of Peters.
In 1788 Allegheny County was established from the northern part of Washington County. Its southern boundary was described: “Beginning at the mouth of Flaherty's Run on the south side of the Ohio River, from thence by a straight line to the plantation on which Joseph Scott, Esq., now lives on Montoure's Run, to include the same; from thence on a straight line to the mouth of Miller's Run on Chartiers Creek; thence by a straight line to the mouth of Perry's Mill Run on the east side of the Monongahela River …”
The next year the boundary was redefined: “Beginning at … White's mill, on Raccoon Creek; from thence by a straight line to Armstrong's mill, on Miller's Run; and from thence by a straight line to the Monongahela River, opposite the mouth of Perry's Run.” This is the current southern boundary of Allegheny County.
The portion of the county west of Chartiers Creek was Moon Township; that between Chartiers Creek and the Monongahela River, St. Clair Township. In 1790 the portion of Moon Township east of Montour's Run was spun off to form Fayette Township. In turn Robinson Township was spun off from Fayette in 1801. In 1846 the remaining Fayette Township split into North and South Fayette Townships. Collier Township was formed in 1875 from parts of South Fayette, North Fayette and Robinson townships.
Similar changes occurred with St. Clair Township. It was subdivided into Upper St. Clair and Lower St. Clair townships in 1836. The area comprising Lower St. Clair is now within the Pittsburgh city limits; Upper St. Clair spun off all the current municipalities in this area, including Bridgeville (1901).
It is easy to understand how historical researchers become frustrated when one recognizes the numerous changes in just the relatively small Bridgeville area. The strip of land that today is Bridgeville Borough was originally part of Iroquois territory and then French domain, before becoming part of Pennsylvania — Bedford County, Westmoreland County (Pitt Township), followed by Washington County (Peters Township), Washington County (Dickinson Township), Allegheny County (St. Clair Township), and Allegheny County (Upper St. Clair Township) before its incorporation in 1901.
John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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