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Ross historical society president authors book about township

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By Adam Brandolph
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ross' history includes the invention of McDonald's Big Mac sandwich, the first enclosed mall in the United States, an escape from prison aided by the warden's wife and a gruesome murder-suicide the day before Christmas Eve.

"The township has some very rich history," said John D. Schalcosky, 28, of Ross. "Most people don't even know half of it."

In an effort to educate people on the township's nearly 200-year history, Schalcosky, president of the Ross Township Historical Society, has authored "Images of America: Ross Township." The 127-page book, which includes more than 200 photographs from the township's earliest days, was released by Arcadia Publishing, specialists in local histories, on May 2.

Schalcosky spent about two months last year compiling the photos from Ross residents and researching the township's history, which dates to an 1809 secession from Pine.

Many photographs residents submitted came with little to no details. Schalcosky was lucky if someone scribbled the year a photo was taken or a short description of who was in the photo or where it was taken. Schalcosky researched people through and many of their stories through Pittsburgh Press clippings. He attempted to independently verify the stories he heard from current residents and researched the locations at the Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds office, Downtown.

"If I got a picture of someone, I had to ask who he was and what did he do to bring the story of Ross into focus," he said.

Among the interesting tales he uncovered (or, for some, revisited):

• Jim Delligatti's 1967 invention of the Big Mac at his McDonald's franchise on the inbound side of McKnight Road. Delligatti debuted the sandwich, which sold for 45 cents, at his Uniontown restaurant that year.

• The Northway Mall, with its famous birdcage, became the first enclosed mall in the country when it opened in 1962. The mall had 54 stores, including the Joseph Horne Co., Woolworth's, G.C. Murphy's and the Red Coach Restaurant.

• In 1902, two brothers -- Ed and Jack Biddle -- escaped from the Allegheny County Jail aided by Kate Soffel, the warden's wife. Soffel and the brothers holed up in a Perrysville schoolhouse and visited the White House Hotel for food and whiskey. After stealing a horse from a barn, police confronted and shot all three. The Biddle Boys died the next day.

• On Dec. 23, 1934, Katheryn Schoch -- still mourning the death of her son about six weeks earlier -- killed her sister in Western New York. Then she took a cab to her brother's home off Good Lane in Perrysville, where, after dinner, she shot and wounded her sister-in-law and killed her brother and his children, ages 11, 8, 6 and 14 months.

"The best part about it is finding all these weird and unique stories," Schalcosky said.

How to Get one

"Images of America: Ross Township" is available at ; Valliant's Diner in Ross; and select Walgreens, Costco, Borders and Barnes & Noble stores. It costs $21.99.

Schalcosky will hold a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. on June 18 at Borders, 8000 McKnight Road, Ross.

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