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Development between 1825 and 1850 laid ground for Bridgeville

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The sixth presentation in the “Bridgeville Remembered” series, at the Bridgeville Public Library, focused on the years between 1825 and 1850. This era saw the beginning of the development of the village that would eventually become the borough of Bridgeville.

The format for this talk was an imaginary trip “up the Pike” in 1850. As soon as our trip crossed the bridge at the south end of town, we encountered an old-fashioned log cabin on the west side of the Pike. It was the home of Betsey Easton and her two children. She is described as a cheerful lady who wore a bandana scarf on her head and was frequently seen sitting on a bench in front of her cabin, knitting.

On the east side of the Pike, across from the Easton cabin, was the residence and office of Dr. George Hayes, the first doctor in the community. Described as “a very agreeable example of the simple frame vernacular stemming from the late Classical style of the eighteenth century” in the book “Landmark Architecture of Allegheny County”, the house was built in 1828 by John McDowell.

A short distance north, the residence and store of Hugh Morgan was a popular gathering place for the locals, grouped around the wood stove in the winter and the cracker barrel in the summer. Several times each week Morgan made the trip to Herriotsville to pick up mail for his customers.

The Morgans' next door neighbors were the family of Thomas Roach. This house served as a toll gate on the Turnpike and as a shoe shop. Beyond their home was the Schaffer “fulling mill.” This was a major industrial facility that will be described in detail in a future column

The Schaffer family lived in a house just north of the mill. Beyond their home a lane led off to the east, terminating at an attractive house known as “Recreation.” It was built around 1830 by Judge Henry Baldwin, to serve as a summer home.

By 1850, Recreation was the home of the Moses Coulter family.

Back on the Washington Pike, the next house encountered was a large, seven-room mansion on the west side of the road. It was built in 1828 by Jonathan Middleswarth as a wedding present for his fiancée, Betsy McKown. A few days before the wedding he learned that Betsy had changed her mind and eloped with a man named Benjamin Morrison. Middleswarth vowed that he “would never love another.” He finished the house and then proceeded to live in it as a bachelor for the next 40 years.

Next “up the Pike” was the residence and business of Alexander Aiken, a cabinet maker and Bridgeville's first undertaker. “Landmark Architecture” describes it as “a pleasant little Greek Revival brick house” with a roof line that resembles a salt box house. Built in 1828, is still in existence, at 423 Washington Ave.

A double house farther north along the Pike was occupied by two families — Isaac Rankin and Henry Poellott.

The Poellotts came to Bridgeville in 1848 from Sodom (Clifton) where they had a successful business making and repairing wagons. Their son, John Lewis Poellott, continued that business in its original location while the rest of the family started a new wagon shop along the Washington Pike.

Across the road from the wagon shop was the residence of Peter Rimmell. Lesnett family history reports that “he farmed in a small way and also had a coal mine.” This is the earliest mention of coal mining in the Bridgeville area.

Where the Pike crossed Chartiers Creek at the north end of town, there were buildings on both sides of the road. The Logan family had a house on the east side; “Parson's Tavern” was located on the west side.

Most of the land west of the Pike was a farm, owned by the Middleswarths and farmed by Thomas Blackamore. The Cook family had a farm on what is now called “Cook's Hill.” The Bell farm was located south of McLaughlin Run. The Fryer family operated a grist mill on McLaughlin Run, close to where the run crosses Baldwin Street today. It, too, will be described in a future column.

By 1850, the evolution of Bridgeville into a prosperous community was well under way.

The seventh presentation in this series, scheduled for April 11, will report on the continuation of this evolution in the next quarter century — the Civil War Years. The public is invited to attend this presentation in the Community Room at the Bridgeville Public Library.

John Oyler, a columnist for Trib Total Media, can be reached at 412-343-1652 or joylerpa@comcast.net.

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