The first settler and proprietor of the Town of Canonsburg was John Canon, after whom the place is named. Colonel
Canon settled in this section of the Chartiers valley about 1773, and for many years was one of the leading citizens
of Washington County. In May, 1780, he was granted Virginia certificates for 1,200 acres of land in four tracts
called Mount Airy, Abbington and Canon's Hill, on Chartiers Creek, and Sugar Tree Grove some distance away. About
1781 he erected a mill on Chartiers Creek which was one of the first in that section. This mill has already been
mentioned in other sections of this work. The author is informed by Mr. David H. Fee, editor of the Canonsburg
Notes and the best informed man on the history of that borough. that this mill stood on the site of the present
mill of the Canonsburg Milling Company, which was erected about 100 years or more ago. John Canon has been mentioned
frequently in the Indian wars and the early settlement of the county and needs no further introduction. He derived
his title of colonel from his appointment in 1777 as a colonel of the Washington County militia.
In 1787 Colonel Canon laid out the first town plat of Canonsburg. with the main road, now Pike Street, as the central
or main thoroughfare. On March 15, 1787. he sold the following lots: No. 3. to Dr. Thompson; No. 4, to Daniel McCoy:
No. 5, to James Morrison; No. 6, to David Gault; No. 7, to Donald Cameron; Nos. 9 and 10. to Andrew Monroe, all
on the west side of Market, now Pike Street; and Nos. 11. 12 and 13, on the same side of the street, to John Todd,
June 1, 1787. On the east side of Market Street the following lots were sold on March 13. 1787: No. 3, to Capt.
Craig Ritchie; No. 4, to Col. Matt Ritchie; No. 5, to William Marshall; No. 6, to Abraham DeHaven.
No date is on the next plat, but it was between 1790 and 1800. During this period we find the following to be some
of the property owners: Abraham DeHaven, Dr. Hugh Thompson, Daniel McCoy, shoemaker; John McDowell, David Gault,
tanner; Thomas Speers, merchant; Dr. Thomas B. Creaghead. Andrew Munroe. tavern keeper; Jefferson Academy, John
Todd, cooper; Charles White. hatter; William Webster. carpentcr; James Foster. brewer: William Criswell. weaver;
Ann Cook, Elizabeth Andrews, Adam Johnson, weaver: Robert Bowland, miller; Craig Ritchie, Esq., Matthew Ritchie.
Esq. William Thompson, mason; John McGill, George McCooke. James Witherspoon. William Roberts. William McCall;
John Anderson, carpenter; James Morrison. butcher; Thomas Morrison, tailor; J. Alex Miller, cooper; John Miller,
schoolmaster; Samuel Miller. Dell Weaver, mason; David Ralston, stiller.
Canonsburg is the oldest incorporated municipality in the county, its charter dating from February 22, 1802, eight
years before the borough of Washington was incorporated. At an election held May 3, 1802. in the college, the following
were elected as the first officers: Samuel Murdoch, burgess; William Clarke, Thomas Briceland. William \Vhite,
John Johnson, and John Wattson, council; and John McGill. high constable. The first meeting of council was held
May 6, 1802.
A market house was erected in Canonsburg on Main Street below the college grounds, before the first meeting of
council; and on May 6, 1802. Andrew Munroe was appointed clerk to have entire charge. An ordinance regulating the
sales in the market was passed March 19, 1804; and on June 4, 1808, it was ordered that the stalls be rented at
$1.50 per annum. This market stood for a number of years, the exact time not being known. On August 25, 1820, council
moved that it be razed and a new one erected, but this was held in abeyance until May 16, 1821, when it was voted
down. The building stood for some years after that date.
The "Hibernia," a hand fire engine, was purchased by council in 1829, and it was used in the big fire
of 1835; and in February, 1836, a volunteer fire company was organized. This existed for several years and was
then discontinued for lack of attendance. Later the engine was sold for $35. In recent years two fire companies
were organized, one with quarters in the borough building and the other on Ridge Avenue, both being supplied with
fire fighting equipment. Canonsburg's worst disaster was the big fire of November, 1898, when several business
buildings in Pike Street were destroyed with large loss. It was necessary to use dynamite finally to stop the progress
of the fire. Among the buildings destroyed was the borough building, which was replaced in 1899 by a new pressed
brick building of two stories.
The first tavern kept in Canonsburg was by Andrew Munroe, who was licensed at the October term, 1787. This was
located at the southwest corner of Main and College streets and was kept by him until 1801, and Jennet Munroe succeeded
him until 1805, when it ceased. In December, 1790, William Dehaven was licensed to keep a tavern, and Abraham Dehaven
in 1791. Francis Irwin kept a tavern from June, 1793 to 1801.
Henry Westby, the proprietor of the Black Horse Tavern, famous as the meeting place of the Whisky Insurrectionists
in 1794. was licensed in January of that year. He remained as proprietor until 1814. when he moved to Washington
and was succeeded by his son, John, who conducted it for many years. This was Canonsburg's most noted tavern of
the early days.
Briceland's Tavern was probably the most noted in all Canonsburg's history. This old building stood on the present
site of the Citizens Trust Building, and was a landmark of the town for many years. The date of the erection of
this building and by whom is not known; but when the old Washington-Pittsburgh Pike was at the height of its glory,
in the days before the Chartiers Valley Railroad was completed in 1871, this tavern was a famous stand. Its history
began back in the '40s and extended through a period of thirty years or more. It was conducted for many years by
John Briceland, son of Thomas Briceland, one of the town's first residents, and from him this stopping place received
its name. For years before the Civil war it was the popular stopping place for all visitors at college events,
and on the muster days of the militia it was headquarters for military men. During the Civil war all soldiers gathered
there when preparing to go to the front or when passing through the town on furlough. When Company G, of the famous
One Hundred and Fortieth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Canonsburg's own company, returned at the close of the
Civil war, the survivors were welcomed home at a big banquet in this tavern. It continued as the town's principal
hotel under the name of Sherman House and Central Hotel until it was razed in 1903 to make room for the trust building.
McFadden's Tavern at the corner of Central Avenue and East College Street was opened by Hector McFadden in November,
1822, and kept until 1835. During those years it was a popular place, especially for college students. This building
is still standing.
For ten years, beginning with 1819, William Finley kept a tavern on the site of the old opera house. As early as
1794, David Lock and Mary Hill were licensed to keep a tavern. Others who were licensed to keep taverns in the
early years of the past century were George Sellers, in 1806; John Patterson, in 1809; John Lowry and Joshua Emory,
In January, 1811, Rev. D. D. Graham advertised that he would give instructions in rhetoric, belles-lettres and
the science of philology. The first schoolhouse of which we have a record was erected of brick in 1816 by subscription
of a number of prominent citizens. This school was in operation for a number of years, and among some of the early
teachers as far back as 1828 were Samuel Hindman, John Hindman, Samuel Guess, John Roberts, Mrs. Rankin, Mrs. Grier,
Joseph Gray, Samuel G. MeNeill, Nancy Knox, Mary Ray, Davis Bascom, Thomas Wilson, Hugh Sturgeon, John Strean,
Robert Curry, Benjamin South and William G. Fee.
When Chartiers Township adopted the school code in 1834, the schools of Canonsburg were a part of that district
and remained so until 1857, when it became a separate district. The old town hall, built in 1843 by the borough
on the site of the old stone college, was used by the district of Chartiers and Canonsburg for about thirty years.
The old brick schoolhouse mentioned above stood for seventy-seven years.
A brick school of four rooms was erected in the '70s, and at that time it was large enough to house all of the
pupils of the town. At the present time Canonsburg is an independent district with F. W. McVay as the superintendent.
In addition to a school nurse, supervisor of music and two assistant teachers it has twenty-five teachers in the
Central Schools; a principal and sixteen teachers in the First Ward School; a principal and seventeen teachers
in the Third Ward School; four teachers in the White Lawn School, and a principal and twelve teachers in the new
high school. The total number of teachers is seventy-eight with a total of 3,237 pupils, and an average daily attendance
of 2,900. The assessed valuation of the property of the district is $4,534,385, and the amount of taxes collected
for school purposes last year was $132,031.90 at 26 mills.
On September 18 to 21, 1784, Gen. George Washington visited Canonsburg in connection with the claims of squatters
on his lands in Mount Pleasant Township. This is the only time that General Washington was ever in this county.
On September 5, 1817, James Monroe, President of the United States, visited Canonsburg and was escorted into the
town by Miller's Company of Light Infantry and a number of men on horseback. He was entertained with refreshments
at Emorys' Tavern on the corner of Pike Street and Central Avenue, after which he visited Jefferson College, where
speeches were made.
President Grant passed through Canonsburg once while on his way to visit W. W. Smith in Washington.
On July 4, 1866, the Eureka baseball team of Pittsburgh defeated the Mechanics team of Canonsburg by a score of
50 to 15; and on July 21,, 1866, the Jefferson College nine of Canonsburg defeated the Hygeia Club of Pittsburgh
by a score of 67 to 17.
William McEwen was the first person in Canonsburg to use natural gas in his residence. This was in the spring of
On December 9, 1885, the residence of Wesley Greer, at the corner of Central Avenue and Pike Street, was wrecked
by an explosion of natural gas. Mr. and Mrs. Greer, two small children and Mr. Greer's mother were in the house
and were injured, but not seriously. Fire broke out immediately after the explosion, and the house was destroyed.
The worst flood in the town's history was on the night of August 21, 1888, when the bridge at Houston, the bridge
at the foot of Central Avenue and many buildings were carried away by the waters of Chartiers Creek. No trains
were run on the Chartiers Railway for nearly a week.
During the winter of 1850-51 a young man named Wilson was killed in a fight between college students and boys of
the town. Someone plunged a knife into young Wilson. A student named Ammon was implicated in the affair, but he
made his escape. Another student named Robinson was arrested and tried in Washington, but was acquitted.
On December 31, 1925, the plant of the Standard Chemical Company, manufacturers of radium, was damaged by fire
to the amount of $40,000. The origin was unknown. In this connection it is interesting to note that the Standard
Chemical Company, located at Canonsburg, which is the largest manufacturing plant for radium in the world, was
started about 1911 through the efforts of the late Joseph Flannery, of Pittsburgh. From the very beginning the
plant has been in charge of L. F. Vogt, of Washington, a chemist and metallurgist, and one of the foremost authorities
on radium in the United States. This is the pioneer plant in this country for the manufacture of radium, which
is obtained from carbonite which is shipped from Colorado. where this company owns extensive mining operations
for this valuable mineral. In appearance it resembles yellow sandstone, the yellow appearance being caused by uranium.
The ore contains such a small amount of radium that it cannot be reckoned on a percentage basis, and it takes up
to 500 tons of ore to produce a single gram of radium. Up to 1921 a total of 120 grams of radium, valued at $14,400,000,
covered the world's supply of this preciouS mineral; and of this amount the Standard Chemical Company had produced
72 grams, valued at $8,640,000. An ounce of gold is worth approximately $20, but an ounce of radium is valued at
$3,480,000, and a single gram is worth $120,000. The Canonsburg plant produces more radium a year than all of the
rest of the radium plants in the world combined.
One of the most important historic events in the history of the Canonsburg plant was the visit there on Friday,
May 27, 1921, of Madame Curie, of Paris, the Frenchwoman, who with her husband in 1898 discovered and gave radium
to the world. During her tour of this country Madame Curie was presented by the people of the Pittsburgh district
with a gram of radium. valued at $120,000, which was produced at the Standard Chemical Company's plant. This gift
was presented to her at the White House on May 20, 1921, by President Harding. On May 27 Madame Curie, accompanied
by her daughter and a party from Pittsburgh, arrived at the Canonsburg plant and made a tour of inspection, when
all of the various processes in the manufacture of radium were explained in detail.
The Chartiers United Presbyterian Church, which celebrated its sesquicentennial September 22, 1925. was one of
four churches in the county which were 150 years old last year. This congregation was organized in 1775. Rev. Matthew
Henderson, the first pastor, was called in 1781 and served until he was killed by a falling tree in 1795. Other
pastors who succeeded him were: Rev. John Smith, 1797-1802; Rev. James Ramsey, 1805-49; Rev. D. H. French, 1850-53;
Rev. John B. Clark, May. 1853, to August. 1860; Rev. D. M. French, 1861-66; Rev. D. M. B. McLean, 1870-80; Rev.
W. B. Smiley, and Rev. William P. Aiken.
The first church was built of logs in 1782, on the present site of the Oak Spring Cemetery, which is one of the
old burying grounds of that section. The second building was of limestone, built in 1834, and it in turn was replaced
by a brick structure. In 1868 the present church was erected on Pike Street, Canonsburg.
The Canonsburg United Presbyterian congregation, commonly known as the Greenside Avenue Church, was organized in
1830 as the Speers Spring congregation. \Vorship was held in a tent near a spring on the Speers farm a mile east
of Canonsburg until a brick church was completed in 1831, at the Speers Spring Cemetery, at the end of East Pike
Street. This was enlarged in 1851 and was used until the present edifice was erected on Greenside Avenue in 1885,
at a cost of $17,000, being dedicated March 25. The first pastor was Rev. Alexander McCahon, who installed in April,
1831, and resigned in 1843. The present pastor is Rev. H. Ross Hune.
The First Presbyterian congregation was organized in 1830 and worshipped in the chapel of Jefferson College. It
used the chapel until 1889, when the present building was erected on the site of old Olome Institute. The cornerstone
was laid August 22, 1889. and the church was dedicated June 22, 1890, the cost being about $32,000. Rev. Robert
L. Brackenridge, the first pastor, was installed December 12, 1845. and resigned two years later. The present pastor
is Rev. George G. Kerr, and the membership is 597.
The Central Presbyterian congregation was organized December 1, 1888, with Rev. L. M. Lewis as the first pastor.
He remained until 1896. It worshipped in the chapel of Jefferson College for a number of years. before the present
church was erected. The present pastor is Rev. David Demster, and the membership is 284.
The Methodist Episcopal congregation was organized about 1845, through the efforts of J. C. Pershing, a student
at Jefferson College, and John Hagerty, a stone mason. In 1847 John Ramsey donated a lot on Greenside Avenue, upon
which a church was erected and used until 1888, when the present church was erected at West Pike and Iron streets.
It was dedicated April 22, 1888. The old brick chapel on Greenside Avenue stood until 1907. Rev. C. R. Wolf is
now the pastor.
The Roman Catholic denomination held meetings monthly in Canonsburg in the early '80s, and from that beginning
St. Patrick's Roman Catholic congregation developed. About 1887 a room was rented in the Kerr Building and services
held at regular intervals until 1891, when the old Methodist chapel on Greenside Avenue was purchased, and it was
dedicated April 12, 1891, by Rev. J. F. Canevin, of Pittsburgh. Services were conducted twice a month until 1903,
when this was made a separate parish and Rev. Apolonius Tyszka placed in charge. The present building, which cost
$30,000, was dedicated April 7, 1907. Rev. Thomas Zacharski is the present rector.
St. Genevieve Roman Catholic congregation grew out of the First congregation. Its first building, erected in 1905,
was destroyed by fire, July 4, 1907, but another was erected later. The present rector is Rev. Edward Piculick.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church was organized October 1, 1890. Worship was conducted in halls throughout the town until
1900, when a lot was purchased and the present building erected in 1901-02 at a cost of $5,000. It was dedicated
December 20, 1902.
The First Baptist congregation was organized in 1906 by a few families of that denomination holding cottage prayer
meeting in their homes. The present building on North Jefferson Avenue was erected and dedicated May 31, 1908.
The present pastor is Rev. J. W. Parker.
The Christian Church organized a congregation in Canonsburg a number of years ago, and meetings were held every
Sunday for several years with Rev. J. F. White, of Washington, in charge. About 1909 the congregation was compelled
to vacate its hall in the Ritchie diamond, and services were discontinued for a time, but later a church was erected
on West College Street. Rev. E. K. VanWinkle, pastor.
The Payne African Methodist Episcopal (colored) congregation dates back, according to some authorities, to 1833,
but there are no early records. Worship was held for several years in private residences, after which the congregation
was regularly organized, with Rev. S. Chingman as pastor. John Chase, a colored man, had died intestate, leaving
a lot in the west part of the town. About 1853 or possibly 1854 the legislature granted a petition of the congregation
to invest a body of trustees with title to this land for the purpose of erecting a church. This was built in 1856
and remodeled in 1875. It was used until 1903, when a new church was erected and dedicated in May.
The Mount Olivet Baptist (colored) congregation was organized about twenty-three years ago. Services were first
held in the Ritchie diamond and later in the frame schoolhouse in the rear of the Central Avenue School until the
new frame church was erected on Vine Street in 1908.