History of Monongahela City, 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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Originally called Parkinson's Ferry. then Williamsport and finally Monongahela City, this town is the oldest settlement in the Monongahela valley and one of the most historic. In addition it is probably the oldest settlement in the county, as it dates back to 1770, when Joseph Parkinson came here from Conococheague settlement, on the National Pike, just at the foot of the eastern slope of the Alleghany Mountains in Maryland. Prior to that time Abraham Decker had secured a warrant for the land upon which Monongahela now stands. This was on August 26, 1769, but whether Decker actually settled there is not known, and in fact is very doubtful, as this land was afterwards claimed by Joseph Parkinson, who obtained title under a Virginia certificate issued to him in 1780.

It is proper to say that this site was first known as Devor's Ferry. In February, 1775, authority was granted at the first session of Lord Dunmore court, held at Fort Dunmore, to James Devore to keep a ferry from his house on the Monongahela River to the mouth of Pigeon Creek. This ferry was evidently not conducted by Mr. Devore for many years, for by the time the Revolution closed quite a settlement had grown up there, and we find that Joseph Parkinson and Pacubus Devore were proprietors of the ferry. About that time the place was known as Parkinson's Ferry.

As early as 1792 Joseph Parkinson attempted to found a town on his lands at Parkinson's Ferry, as shown by an advertisement in the Pittsburgh Gazette for October 20, 1792, in which he stated that he had laid out a plan of lots and would begin their sale on November 15. This attempt evidently did not meet with much success for we find that on July 25, 1796, Mr. Parkinson advertised that he had laid out a new town called Williamsport, situated on his plantation at Parkinson's Ferry. A lot was reserved in the center of the town for a market house, another for a meeting house and a third for a "choll" house. The town originally contained one hundred and four lots, and at the first sale, held August 26, 1796, twenty-four were sold for $1,385, at prices ranging from 822 up to $239.

That the town quickly became of some importance is shown by the following taken from The Navigator for 1806:


"Situated on the left bank of the river, just below Pigeon Creek, is a growing village in Washington County, Pa., twenty miles east of Washington and about twenty-three from Pittsburgh. The inhabitants have been petitioning the Legislature for the privilege of forming into a new county by taking off a portion of Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette, and Allegheny counties, all of which corner near that place. It is said that 4.000 dollars have been already subscribed to meet part of the expenses of the county buildings."

Parkinson's Ferry was a hotbed of rebellion during the Whisky Insurrection, and there on August 14, 1794. was held the famous mass meeting which was attended by 200 delegates from the four western counties engaged in the insurrection. The place where this meeting was held is on the high bluff just in the rear of the Bentley theatre, in Main Street, and is still known locally as "Whisky Point."

Monongahela City has always been an important point in river trade, and by 1810 it had 500 inhabitants. By 1840 there were two glass manufacturing plants and numerous minor industries located there. River steamers made daily trips between that town and Pittsburgh.

During the War of 1812 the Williamsport Rangers, Capt. James Warne and Capt. John Shouse's Cavalry Company were from this section. The activities of these units are given in another chapter.

Williamsport was incorporated as a borough April 8, 1833, at which time its population was 600. The first officers are not known as the records for the first nineteen years of the borough have been lost. Joseph Parkinson, founder of the town, died April 28, 1834, aged nearly ninetyfive years. The name of the town was changed from Williamsport to Monongahela, April 1, 1837.

Monongahela has the distinction of being the first and for fifty years the only municipality in Washington County with a city form of government. By a special act of the legislature, approved March 24, 1873, a city charter was granted and the town became Monongahela City. The first election resulted in the choice of the following city officers.: John Holland, mayor; select council,- A. T. Gregg, Thomas Wilson, first ward; William Corrin, William P. Ketchum, second ward; P. A. Foster, M. Saunders, third ward; common council,-Isaac Hodge, William H. Barr, first ward; W. J. Markwell, John Teeters, second ward; John A. Ford, William Coulter, third ward. These officers entered upon their duties May 5, 1873.

The old Union Paper Mill, the only industry of its kind ever in Washington County. was established in 1850 by Dr. Samuel Culbertson, of Chambersburg, Pa. Straw board from wheat, rye, oat and barley strawwas manufactured here. It is noted as the first plant of its kind west of the mountains in which air alone was used for drying. In 1862 steam was adopted for drying. The buildings were destroyed March 4, 1864. but were rebuilt and continued in operation for many years. The property was finally sold and the mill dismantled about twelve years ago.

The City Hotel was kept by Joseph Hamilton at an early date, and this was headquarters for the stage coach line that ran over the Washington-Williamsport Turnpike. In 1835 B. H. Latrobe surveyed a railroad through the town, but there was great opposition to the project, both in Monongahela and in other sections of the county. It was claimed that if a railroad was run through Washington County grass would grow over the National Pike and Pittsburgh would be ruined. This tavern was built in 1811.

The Chess Tavern was kept by George Rose at one time, and he wa& also proprietor of a cake and beer stand. The Parkinson Tavern was another old-time stand.

In 1864 the Monongahela Valley Telegraph Company built a telegraph line to the town by way of West Newton. This was merged with the Pacific and Atlantic Telegraph Company. which built a line across Washington County in 1866, and in 1877 sold out to the Western Union.

George V. Lawrence. still regarded as one of the shrewdest politicians Washington County ever produced, was a citizen of Monongahela. He was elected to the Legislature in 1843, '46, '58 and '59; and in 1848 he defeated William Montgomery. of Washington, for the State Senate. He was re-elected in 1860 and was speaker of the Senate in 1863. He was also elected to the Senate in 1874. '76 and '78; and in 1864, '66 and '82 he was elected to Congress.

It is claimed that when General Lafayette passed through Washington County in May, 1825, he stopped at Monongahela, but the author has been unable to find in any of the accounts anything to substantiate this claim. Lafayette's route through Western Pennsylvania has been carefully traced and no mention is found of his having stopped at Monongahela.

Gen. William Henry Harrison once visited the city, when he was on his way to Washington, D. C., to be inaugurated ninth President of the United States. He passed up the Monongahela River on the steamer. "Loyalhanna" and was given a royal welcome at the wharf by the people of Monongahela.

The most disastrous flood in the history of the city was on July 11. 1888, when much damage was done. Another was experienced on March 14, 1907.

Edward G. Acheson, a native of Washington, Pa., noted to the world as the discoverer of carborundum. discovered this great product in Monongahela in the old electric light plant. Associated with him were William C. McAlister and W. K. Vance, of Monongahela. and John Hughes, of New York. Mr. Acheson had been under contract with the Westinghouse Electric Company. and when this expired he went to Monongahela. where he organized the old electric light company. He spent his nights at the plant trying to convert heat into electric energy. In his experiments in baking clay and carbon he discovered some white specks in the retort, and upon experiments he found that these specks would cut a diamond. He made a little vial of the product. which he named carborundum, and sold it to a New York jeweler for $60. Acheson then made tiny carborundurn wheels for dentists. These came to the notice of George Westinghouse, who ordered 60,000 of the wheels from Acheson. and he manufactured the entire order with his own hands. He received $7,000 from Westinghouse for this order and immediately started a carborundum company. He soon realized that his small plant was not large enough. and later succeeded in starting the present plant at Niagara Falls. He exhibited the product at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, then sold the Austrian rights for $20,000 and then to other European territory for $60,000.

A school was opened in 1796 in a log building at Parkinson's Ferry, with a Mr. Tilbrook as teacher. He was followed by a Mr. Thompson and then Capt. Hughey Mitchell. The little brick school at Catsburg was also used for many years. Two schoolhouses were built in 1805, and in 1851 a graded school was established with James H. Moore as principal and Miss Webster, Miss Bebee and Miss Hodgson as assistants. This was the first Union school in the county, and it was bitterly opposed at first but gradually won favor. The Central school of ten rooms was dedicated July 1. 1811, and on March 2. 1883, it was almost totally destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt and was rededicated September 27, 1883. The first class of ten members was graduated from the high school in 1878.

John H. Door is superintendent of the Monongahela school district at the present time. Under him are five principals and sixty-eight teachers, including the high school. In the latter, of which H. W. Crane is the principal, are nineteen teachers; and the junior high school, Marlin E. Hilty, principal, has eight teachers. William School, Matilda M. Mills, principal, has eleven teachers; Waverly School, Garnet E. Ternent, principal, eleven teachers; Lincoln School, Nelle G. Hanlon, principal, twelve teachers.

The Presbyterian Church of Monongahela was organized in 1796 at Horseshoe Bottom by Rev. Samuel Ralston, and in 1807 it was moved to Parkinson's Ferry, where it first met in a tent. Services were held in a schoolhouse until 1815, when the first house of worship was erected, on the hill between Third and Jackson streets. In 1836 the second church was erected on Chess Street on the site of the present Eagles Building. The present church was built in the seventies at a cost of $35,000. The first pastor was Rev. Samuel Ralston, D. D. The present minister is Rev. W. F. McKee, D. D., and the membership is 765.

The Methodist Episcopal Church is traced back to 1812, when the Riggs brothers organized a class in the home of Samuel Baxter in Carroll Township. The congregation grew rapidly and a log building was secured on Main Street, Monongahela. A dwelling was purchased in 1826, and converted into a church. In 1835 a brick church was completed and used until 1864, when the present house of worship was erected. Rev. G. E. Brenneman is the present pastor.

The African Methodist Episcopal (colored) congregation was organized by Bishop Paul Quinn in 1834, and meetings were held in a building at the corner of Sixth and Railroad streets. Meetings were held in various places until 1871, when the present church was erected at the corner of Main and Seventh streets.

The First Baptist Church was organized in the school hall February 9, 1860, with twenty-four members. For a number of years it met in the Presbyterian house of worship; but in January, 1871, the present church was dedicated, at a cost of S7,000. David Williams was the first pastor. Rev. Howard Griffith, the present pastor, has been in charge since 1922.

The first Protestant Episcopal congregation dates from 1860 when Rev. R. H. Lee, of Washington, Pa., held services in Monongahela. Other ministers from Pittsburgh held services at intervals, and on November 17, 1863, St. Paul's Church was organized with Rev. Henry MacKay as the first rector. The cornerstone of the present church was laid in 1866 by Right Reverend Bishop Kerfoot, hut it was not opened for services until 1870.

The Church of the Transfiguration, Roman Catholic congregation, goes back to 1816, when Rev. Father McGuire held services for the Catholic families. The pastors of the Catholic Church at Elizabeth held services in Monongahela for a number of years. The first church was completed in 1865 under Rev. Dennis Kearney and was used until May, 1904, when it was moved to the rear of the lot, and on May 30, 1906, the cornerstone of the present church was laid. This was completed at a cost of $75,000, and was dedicated February 23, 1908. by Bishop Canevin, of Pittsburgh. The present rector is Rev. M. Kitrick.

St. Anthony Roman Catholic (Italian) congregation was organized in May, 1904, by Rev. Cornelius Falcone, and on December 17, 1905, the present church was dedicated by Bishop Canevin.

The First English Evangelical Lutheran congregation was organized February 7, 1869, in the old Methodist Episcopal Church, with thirteen members. Rev. L. Ryder, the first pastor, served until January, 1872. Services were afterwards held in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but the present edifice was dedicated May 31, 1908.

The second Baptist (colored) congregation was organized November 26, 1882, by Rev. R. M. Marshall, in the old school building. The present church was erected in 1883.

The Christian congregation was organized August 19, 1899, by Elder J. A. Bennett, with thirty-eight members. This was the result of a Sunday school and Christian Endeavor Society held for several years prior to that time in Markell Hall. The present building was dedicated in October, 1900, by Rev. O S. Reed, pastor of the congregation. The congregation is now in charge of Rev. Alfred Johnson.

The United Presbyterian congregation is the outgrowth of Sunday school and preaching held by this denomination in the Baptist Church early in 1905. The congregation was duly organized October 24, 1905, with a membership of eighteen. Rev. J. H. Miller, the first regular pastor, took charge December 1, 1906. The present chapel was dedicated May 1, 1908, at a cost of $5,300.

A Cumberland Presbyterian congregation was organized January 31, 1833, but was discontinued about 1845.

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