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Bygone Days: First election

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

The first election in McKeesport was held in September 1842 with the polls open for only five hours. The population was 400. It was held in the old Diamond School House, First Ward at Sixth Avenue and Market Street. A copy of the first charter was sent to the printer by city clerk James E. Crossland and no doubt would prove to be interesting reading. The first burgess was James R. Hendrickson.

The charter follows without change of any kind:

“Charter of Borough of McKeesport, Granted 1842 to the Honorable Benjamin Patton, Jr., President Judge and Hon. Hugh Davis and Hon. John M. Snowden, His Associates, Judges of the Court of Quarter Sessions of the County of Allegheny.

“The petition of the undersigned, who compose a majority of the freeholders residing within the limits of McKeesport, which is in Versailles Township, Allegheny County, humbly represent that they are anxious that the town of McKeesport should be incorporated into a borough, to be known by the name and style of ‘McKeesport,' in conformity with the Act of Assembly of the first of April Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and thirty four, and your petitioners further beg leave to represent that the village of McKeesport has been laid out for forty years, and upwards, and contains about four hundred inhabitants, and your petitioners labor under great inconvenience from want of uniformity in streets, the erection of buildings without regard to regularity in their location: and sundry other impediments to its prosperity which your petitioners are of the opinion would be remedied by incorporating the same. The description of the boundaries of McKeesport is as follows, namely:

Beginning at the mouth of the Youghiogheny River, thence up said river to the line of Samuel M. Rose's land, thence by land of said Rose, North seventy-nine and one-fourth degrees east seventy-one and one-half perches to the line of James Evans' land, thence by land of said Evans and Robert Sinclair, North ten and three-quarters degrees west one hundred and seventy-eight perches to the Monongahela River, thence up said river to the place of beginning.”

(Endorsed) No. 13, March term, 1842. Petition for the incorporation of McKeesport into a borough — The Grand Jury have had the within petition under consideration and find that the provisions of the law have been complied with and certify that the prayer of the petitioners ought to be granted.”

Another charter, enlarging the powers of the borough authorities, was granted in the 1870s, and a third charter in 1891, when McKeesport became a city.

If McKeesport contained 400 people in 1842, population figures showed an average yearly increase of 501 through 1924. Census figures gave McKeesport a population of more than 46,000 by 1924.

It is noted that the petitioners spoke of undesirable street and building lines. No doubt they attempted to correct these evils in that respect. Present conditions show that they failed in numerous instances.

This election was held for the passing of the petition, with no candidates involved.

Gerry Jurann is a former Daily News librarian.

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