History of Donora, Pa.
From: A History of Washington County, Pennsylvania
By: Earle R. Forrest
Published By The S. J. Clark Publishing Company, Chicago 1926

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This important manufacturing town was laid out in 1900 by the Union Improvement Company; but in 1814 Charles DeHaas attempted to start a town there which he called Pittsborough. This was later changed to Columbia, and was afterwards known as West Columbia. In the summer of 1815 twenty houses were built, but that seems to have been the limit of the town. A postoffice was established in June, 1819, after which the prosperity of the place seems to have waned, and the dreams of Charles DeHaas of establishing a county seat for a river county were dissipated. The lots passed from one owner to another during the next three-quarters of a century, generally for a very small sum. Then after the present town of Donora was founded and the American Steel & Wire Company built its present immense plant, many of the owners of these old lots realized a handsome profit. A more extended history of old Columbia will be found under Carroll Township.

The history of modern Donora begins with May, 1899, when the Union Improvement Company purchased 152 acres from Bert W. Castner; seventy from the Robert Heslep heirs, 130 from Bradford Allen, and thirty from Alexander & Company. The next year this company laid out Donora, and when the lot sale was opened on August 30, 1900, there was a rush of people to the new townsites. On the day of this sale there were only four houses on the site of the town with twelve persons residing therein. Three years later there were 1,000 buildings and 6,000 people.

The borough of Donora was incorporated February 11, 1901, and. J. N. Mullin was elected the first burgess, and in May, 1903, the village of West Columbia was taken in as a part of Donora.

Donora owes its wonderful growth to its industrial development. The Union Steel Company broke ground May 29, 1900, and since that time one of the largest plants of the kind in the United States is located there. It occupies 300 acres along the river front, now owned by the United States Steel Corporation under the name of the American Steel & Wire Company.

Never in their most vivid dreams did Charles DeHaas and John Neal, the proprietors of old Columbia, conceive of a city that would ever reach the greatness of the present town. On the same ground where they built the Columbia Steam Mill & Manufacturing plant 110 years ago are now the great mills of the American Steel & Wire Company. Property values have advanced to heights undreamed of by the early settlers. Two lots sold seventy years ago for $500 were sold on August 27. 1915, to the Union Steel Company by Mrs. Rebecca Boyd for $10,000.

The assessed valuation of Donora last year was $6,719,625, which is considered at 60 per cent of its true value. This is an independent school district, with Thomas M. Gilland, as superintendent. There are a total of 100 teachers and 3,680 pupils. The average daily attendance for last year was 3,187.

The First Presbyterian Church grew out of the old Union Sunday School, which started June 2, 1901. On May 8, 1902, a Cumberland Presbyterian congregation was organized, and this is now the First Presbyterian Church. A brick church was built in 1902 at a cost of $12,000. The first pastor was Rev. R. P. Lippincott, from March, 1903, to December, 1906. Next came Rev. John E. Fulton, from September, 1907, to October, 1913. succeeded by Rev. William Stewart, from June 1914, to the present time.

The Methodist Episcopal was the first church built in Donora, being completed in September, 1901, at a cost of $1,000. A more substantial building was built in 1903, at a cost of $20,000, which was a great credit to the enterprising town of only thirty months. The first pastor was Rev. W. H. Kirkland. The present pastor is Rev. H. M. Carnahan.

African Methodist Episcopal (colored) congregation dates from 1900, when Rev. S. P. West began missionary work. On January 26, 1902, a church was dedicated at a cost of $3,500.

The United Presbyterian congregation began in the Odd Fellows hall July 20, 1902, when Rev. John W. McClenahan began preaching. A church was dedicated May 10, 1903. The present pastor is Rev. E. A. Campbell.

St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church was founded in July. 1902, by Rev. Father Pohorence among the Slays. In 1903 a wooden church was erected, and was replaced in 1905 by a $35,000 structure. The present rector is Rev. E. E. Gellhof.

St. Charles Boromeo Roman Catholic congregation was organized in 1903 in a storeroom by Rev. C. J. Steppiing. The church was erected in 1904. Rev. P. Diskin is the present rector.

Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary Roman Catholic congregation was organized in 1903, and in 1904 a brick church costing $27.000 was erected. Rev. L. Odziemszewski is the present rector.

St. Joseph Roman Catholic church was founded in 1906, when the old Methodist Episcopal church building was purchased. The present rector is Rev. Vincent T. Abromatis.

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