Each municipality that was a part of the original Mifflin Township has a unique history.
[ Compiled by Collin Burns. ]
The third quarter of the eighteenth century saw the first land occupancy in the Clairton area of Mifflin Township. The land office in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County shows the first survey record – that of Benjamin Kirkindall (or Kuykendahl) – dated September 27, 1769. This survey resulted in the Ravensburg patent granted to Sarah and Moses Kirkindall (Kuykendahl) on February 10, 1791. The patent covered lands in the northern or, later known as, the Wilson district of the area. A second tract, toward the west, was surveyed for Moses Kirkindall (Kuykendahl) on December 8, 1783, but this was not granted until December 22, 1822 and is known as the Gamaliel patent and became the property of a John Gormly. A third tract, in the southerly part of the area, was surveyed by Samuel St. Clair on September 8, 1784 under the title of Bruce, and this patent was conveyed to Samuel Willier (Wylie) on September 22, 1788. A fourth tract surveyed for John King on July 7, 1783 was granted by the Concord patent to John McIlhany on September 20, 1787.
The lands conveyed by the original patentees were vested in settlers, many of whose names are still associated with the region. In the Wilson District – the Abers, McCogneys, Wilsons and Woods held title; in the Blair district it was the Walkers, Blackburns, Blairs and Bradshaws; and in what was later to become the Borough of Clairton, it was the Wylies, Larges and Deans. Among other farm owners in the area adjacent to the present city were the Paynes, Larges, and Bickertons.
Although there was much coal mining in the area, the first appearance of industry occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century with the erection of brick kilns by John T. Chambers in Blair. In 1889 the Mendelssohn Piano Company built a small factory at Peters Creek and gave its name to the little worker’s town that gathered around the plant. The Goff Manufacturing Company, also in 1889, erected a mill on a small river frontage in Wilson near the present Clairton-Glassport bridgehead. This same year saw the establishment of the short-lived Keystone Cotton Tie Company for the manufacture of cotton bale bands. This plant was later acquired by the Morris and Bailey Steel Company, predecessor of the Oliver iron and Steel Company. The Monongahela Tube Company also opened in 1889. The Oliver and Monongahela mills were located on the river between the Clairton-Glassport bridge and the benzol plant of the old Carnegie-Ilinois Steel Company.
The Borough of Clairton was enacted on April 25, 1903, J. Will Taylor as burgess with R.H. Sloan, W.P. Gleason, J.E. Tatnall, I.C. Wilson, D.M. Wolf, Frank Bennett and John Lutz, councilmen. The Chief of Police was Edwin Keanely; E. Wolfe, Chief of the Fire Department; A.M. Roberts, Borough Clerk, and T.M. Gealey, solicitor. The Borough of Wilson (this includes the unincorporated towns of Wilson, Coal Valley and Peters Creek or Mendelssohn) January 4, 1907; and the Blair District became the Borough of North Clairton on March 27, 1915. thus the Clairton area was divided politically into three separate jurisdictions. By the close of WWI, the folly of the artificial separation of a single community into three political jurisdictions had become evident to the majority of the people of the area and a movement toward municipal unification had then begun.
The town we know today as Dravosburg was granted to John Gray in 1759 by Thomas and John Penn, sons of William Penn. In 1788, the land that is now Dravosburg was divided in two north and south sections with each totaling nearly 320 acres each. The north section was known as Mount Gray, named after John Gray, and the southern half was owned by Henry Wood. Wood’s land was also divided into two parcels, Coventry and Rich Lands. Today, Mount Gray is now much of the North Hills, and the two southern regions were called Coventry and Curry Hollow.
The name Curry Hollow originated from John Curry who owned that section of the southern half of the land in 1837. Also, the dividing line between the north and south regions is present day McClure Street. John C. Risher, born in 1815, purchased over a thousand acres of land later in his life. Most of this land included all of Dravosburg. Risher settled in the area after the California Gold Rush in 1849. Not having any success with gold, Risher went into the mining business where he found real profit in coal. The land was discovered to be very rich with coal, and soon, many others established coal mines and businesses in the area. In 1840, James O’Neal purchased a mine and operated it until 1851, when it was bought by Michael Dravo and his sons.
The municipality of Dravosburg is named after John Fleming Dravo who was a prominent businessman of his time. John F. Dravo, born in 1819, came to McKeesport with his father, Michael Dravo, for work in the coal business. John’s father Michael is known as one of the first men to use horses for coal operations where they were used to move coal out of the mines. John Dravo worked with his father in the coal business from the time they first arrived in 1840 until 1868. When he left the family business, John established the Coke, Coal, and Gas Company which was located in today’s Connellsville. John was also president of the Coal Exchange from 1860 to 1870 after where he worked to improve the condition of the rivers. John Dravo was also named to the Chamber of Commerce. After 1886, John Fleming Dravo was a large contributor to many successful business and companies in the area.
Dravosburg became a very large coal supplier in the 1800’s, but coal was not the only resource being to come out of Dravosburg. Aside from coal, wood was also a part of the shipping cargo, with two sawmills in Dravosburg. The first mill was owned by William McCleary in 1865 and was later sold to Alva Culpin in 1880. This mill flourished until 1936, when it was destroyed by a flood. The second mill was owned by John C. Risher, and stood where the Ohio Barge Line Company is today. The mill was also a boat yard because of its proximity to the Monongahela River.
In 1900, the mill was bought by W.C. McCune, was sold and bought again in 1918 after McCune’s death. Purchased by The Hillman Coal Company, the property was used as a boat landing until 1951. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Dravosburg thrived because of their coal mines and availability to transportation. Prior the twentieth century, the area was still a part of the Mifflin Township, even though it was widely known as Dravosburg. Finally, the community officially ended its association with Mifflin Township and became a Borough on March 31, 1903 with Stephen S. Crump as its Burgess.
In April of 1769, Benjamin Tate filed for an area of land that would later become known as Duquesne. In 1770, Tate granted the 290 acres to General William Thompson who would then grant the land to Peter Charles DeLuziere in 1791. The name Duquesne comes from the governor-general of Canada from 1752 to 1755 and the Marquis of Duquesne, who was appointed by France’s King Louis XV.
In the early 1800’s, the first settlers came to the area for the farmland. One of those settlers, John Neal, is credited for constructing the area’s first gristmill, used to grind rye, corn, and wheat. This was ideal for all of the area’s farms. Like much of western Pennsylvania, the spark of industry changed Duquesne dramatically. In 1887 the National Tube Works of McKeesport constructed a mill on the other side of the Monongahela River, and called it The Duquesne Tube Works Company. The mill began with 100 and grew to 500 employees within the first three years. Within the next five years, the company would manufacture 150 tons of tubes and piping every day.
In 1901, the Carnegie Steel Company constructed a mill after the Duquesne Tube Works Company closed its doors due to financial problems. Because of the expansion of America, mills were being constructed rapidly and with so much steel that was being produced by these mills, railroad lines had to be established specifically for The Carnegie Steel Company. One of those was The Union Railroad that began track construction in 1898. The growing amount of mills in the early twentieth century would employ people from all over the world who came to America to work in the region’s growing steel industry, and the jobs that that industry provided. However, in the 1920’s, steel workers rebelled against the Carnegie Steel Company over issues including work hours, and lack of safety procedures. Many workers died in the mills and in the rail yards. Steel laborers worked twelve hours days, and six day weeks with fatigue being the cause of many deaths on the job. In response, Andrew Carnegie initiated a safety program that would cause the amount of fatalities to drop dramatically after this plan was put into action. After this procedure was added in the 1930’s, steel workers worked only eight to ten hours a day. Duquesne was one of the many steel providers in America until the 1980’s. During that decade, foreign countries began making steel and selling it on the world market cheaper than American prices thus ending steel production in Duquesne and the rest of the Monongahela Valley.
Munhall’s beginnings were derived from the scarcity of space. In the mid to late 1800’s, Mifflin Township’s population rose at a fast rate, causing people to feel compacted. Many of these people consisted of citizens who lives south-east of the Borough of Homestead. The area these citizens were residing was in either referred to as New Homestead, or East Homestead, at least until 1901. On September 3, 1900, the citizens of the south-east Homestead region requested a charter for land with the Allegheny court, and on June 23, 1901, the charter was approved. The name Munhall was originated from an early entrepreneur by the name of John Munhall. After a business failure in 1857 because of the depression, John found himself working with his brothers Michael and William. John and his two brothers would build steamboats together for some time. The three brothers would later work in the coal industry in the area that would be the borough of Munhall. The Munhall family lived in the eastern side of the borough years later. John Munhall also purchased seventy-eight acres of land for mill workers to lease for around four hundred dollars. This land was divided into three hundred parts, each able to be leased. A church would also be constructed on the plot of land for the residents who leased in that area. More land was then able to be acquired in the Mifflin Township area, and because of that, the population in the borough of Munhall rapidly increased. In 1910, the population rose from 5,185, to 16,000 in four decades alone. Munhall would also join the other communities in contributing to the booming steel industry.
Most of the Homestead steel facility actually rested on Munhall land, even though the miss is iconic to Homestead itself. Many other various businesses rose from the new borough of Munhall. As people started businesses, the need for buildings also rose. These buildings were constructed in an area that would be known as Munhall Junction, which was Munhall’s business district. Many if not all of these businesses were widely affected by the stock market crash that would soon happen there after. Even the Carnegie Steel Company was greatly impacted by the crash, and many employees of the mills had to be let go. Another event that greatly affected the steel company, and also Munhall as a whole, was the steel strike of 1892. Even though Carnegie Steel faced a strike and the stock market crash, the steel industry was still growing. Around the 1950’s, seventy percent of the population of Munhall was employed some way by the steel mills. During the mid-1900’s many houses had to be built for the people of an industry that kept growing. The steel industry, along with Munhall, would grow until the 1980’s. At this time, foreign countries were producing steel at a lower price. This cheaper steel would be the downfall of the American steel industry. After the mills ran cold, many citizens of Munhall became unemployed, along with many others in the neighboring communities. The borough of Munhall struggled for many years, but the amount of business in the area carried the community through the later years. Many residents of Munhall today have family ties, or personal experience, with te production of steel when it was a booming industry in America.
The history of Hays began in 1789, when the area was still a part of the Baldwin Township. As the size of the township of Baldwin increased, so did the need for separation in the eyes of the township citizens. The straw that broke the camels back to many citizens was that there was a large lack of maintenance work for the roads of Baldwin Township. However, Hays would not secede until later in 1901. The first settler of Hays was a man named John Smalls, who was the one that named the area of Six Mile Ferry Village. In the village was a large coal mine that stretched through the six miles, and that coal mine was The H.B Hays and Brothers Coal Railroad. Like many of the other boroughs, coal was a large part of early Hays history with the large amount of jobs that the coal industry would supply. A coal mine was established by the man that the borough was named after. In 1828, James H. Hays constructed a mine near the Six Mile Area. That mine was named the Hays and Haberman mines. In 1901, Hays was incorporated as a separate borough after seceding from the township of Baldwin. After the separation of Hays from Baldwin Township, the main production priority turned from the industry of coal to the assistance to war supplies that America so badly needed.
The 1940’s was the beginning of Hays’s war contributions when the Hays Ammunition Plant was constructed in 1942. This plant was built by the United States Navy and was for the production of ammunition for American soldier’s guns and heavier artillery. Many other boroughs contributed to the war. West Homestead’s Mesta Machine Company played a large role in the assistance of the war. Mesta would construct steel plates for military vehicles, and also make special machine pars that would be used for specific parts of military equipment. The need for army aid was high, which is why in 1966, the Hays Ammunition Plant was transferred to the army to be used by the American military. The plant would employ over one thousand people in between World War II and the Vietnam War. After America’s involvement in was over, the Hays Ammunition Plant’s need was greatly decreased, in 1970, the plant was put on standby until 1988, where the plant would be disposed. The area of Hays would later thrive with many other businesses for the upcoming future.
Homestead’s history starts with a man named Sebastian Frederick, who was the first to settle in the Homestead region. Almost twenty years after Frederick settled, John McClure, a wealthy land owner, purchased 327 acres of land from Thomas smith in 1786, which included what will be Homestead. The land of Homestead was a part of Alleghany County until 1788. On December 16, 1788, the county of Alleghany was divided into seven different townships, making Homestead reside with Mifflin Township. At this time, Homestead was widely known for the vast farmland, and it was only in 1879 when Homestead became and would stay as a county of industry and innovation. The first industry to start in Homestead was glass, and in 1879, the Bryce Higbee Glass Company set up shop in the county near the Monongahela River. Only one year later in 1880, Homestead became a borough with as little as 596 residents.
In 1881, an industry arrived that would shape Homestead along with the rest of America, steel. On March 18 of the same year, the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel company was produced in Homestead and five months later on August 9, the first steel rail was made in the Homestead’s first steel Company. After the 1880’s, Homestead became a large county for innovations. On August 24, 1881, fifteen days after the first rail was made, the very first phone company placed wires all over Homestead. This company was the C.D&P Telephone Company. The amount of industries in Homestead was growing rapidly, and so was its population. The population grew from 596 residents, to 8,000 residents in only two years. In 1883, the Pittsburgh Bessemer Steel Company was bought by the Carnegie Phillips Company, run by one of the most successful steel men this country has ever seen, Andrew Carnegie. This would be known as the Homestead Steel Works, which was a large contributor to the economy of Homestead, with a payroll of $350,000 dollars. As the production of steel was at a high in the 1880-1890’s, many steel workers were tired of the conditions the Homestead Steel Works was under during the time the factory was in control by Carnegie’s Chairman of the Board, Mr. Henry Clay Frick. In 1892, to prepare for any strikes against the steel company, Carnegie constructed a large wooden wall around the site.
On June 28, 1892, the workers of the Homestead Steel Works locked themselves in the plant, refusing to work. At this time, Andrew Carnegie was not at the company or even in the country at all. Carnegie was in Scotland, and left Frick in charge, so he had to deal with the strike. On July 6, at 4:30 in the morning, Henry Clay Frick hired 300 Pinkertons to deal with the strike. Pinkertons are a private group of security that was created in 1850 by Allen Pinkerton. However, the Pinkertons were severely outnumbered, and after hours of fighting, the Pinkertons surrendered. After they surrendered and left for Pittsburgh, the town of Homestead was in control by the strikers. Four days later on July 10, 8,000 militia soldiers of Pennsylvania marched to Homestead and quickly took control of the town from the strikers. However, it was not until November 21 when the strikes were officially over. As the strikes ended, the Homestead community returned to normal on and off, for other strikes would occur in the future. The next strike to happen would be The Great Steel Strike of 1919. Although no structured changes came from this strike, many workers hope that the strike would be a gateway to a better future for the steel companies and their workers. Besides steel, Homestead was a birthing place for many new companies that would become successful. In 1918, the Homestead Valve Manufacturing Company began, and by 1920, 300 different stores have been established. Another way steel brought in profits to Homestead was from the early to mid-1900. Because of war being over America’s shoulder at the time, United States Steel received numerous orders for steel armor plates for cruisers or other heavy machines being used for warfare in the 1920’s. Homestead would fill large orders of steel armor plates throughout the war. In 1943, United States Steel Works constructed an open hearth for more assistance in the war. Only three years later, another strike occurred. Smaller strikes would occur frequently throughout Homestead for as long as steel would be made in Homestead. A large milestone was presented in 1952 when the one millionth ton of steel was poured in Homestead. The first steel company came to Homestead in 1881, so one million tons of steel in seventy-one years was a symbol of the work and growth Homestead sprouted from ever since the county began. The amount of progress put in for this county shows that one of the main birthplaces for steel, glass, and many other industries was Homestead Township.
The history of Baldwin Township began in 1780, when the land was first settled. Almost one hundred years later, on February 24, 1844, the township of Baldwin was established. The name Baldwin originated from a Pittsburgh lawyer named Henry Baldwin, who contributed to the United States Supreme court from 1830, to 1844 when he died. The original township’s span was over 10,500 acres. The area consisted of what we know today as Carrick, Hays, Overbrook, and Brookline. Baldwin Township’s land also consisted of present-day municipalities such as Brentwood, Castle Shannon, Baldwin, and Whitehall Borough. Baldwin Township was also a part of an industry that began the production of America, the coal industry. Like many other boroughs, coal was a large contribution to the growth of the counties that partook in the industry.
Baldwin Township also contained some of the first glass factories on Allegheny County. Unlike many other settlements, agriculture was a large export in the Baldwin area. One of the exports was involved in the largest fight against government taxes at that period, The Whiskey Rebellion. Because of the tax increase of whiskey in Pennsylvania, many farmers that would grow ingredients for whiskey had to stand their ground to keep their livelihood, and many of these farmers came from Jefferson Hills, and Baldwin Township. After rebellion receded, the township grew until the nineteenth century. During the turn of the twentieth century, the township of Baldwin began to fall apart, and much of the reason was the size of the township itself. The beginnings of the new municipalities mostly originated from the lack of maintenance that was issued for the roads. In 1901, 201 acres of landscape seceded from Baldwin Township and form the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hays. Shortly after in 1904, Carrick left the township with 1,058 acres, along with Brookline, which claimed 138 acres. Almost 9,000 acres were lost from Baldwin Township between 1915 and 1951. These acres broke off to what we know now as the municipalities of Castle Shannon, Brentwood, Whitehall, Mt. Lebanon, and what would later become Baldwin Borough. After many municipalities were formed, Baldwin’s size was greatly decreased. So because of this, Baldwin soon became a borough because the size did not meet the expected for a township. Today, Baldwin is 400 acres, comparing to the 10,550 acres that Baldwin had while as a township. The parts of Baldwin that came from the township grew to what we know today as our modern boroughs.
The history of Jefferson Hills begins with the creation of the Mason Dixon line on October 18, 1767. Before the line was established, the area that Jefferson Hills was eventually founded was a part of Virginia. Along with Jefferson Hills, much of Pennsylvania’s south-west was Virginia territory until Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed the surrounding land, creating boundaries between nearby states. In the late eighteenth century, the small county that was started only covered a fraction of what would be the size of the township today. The only few acres of town was blanketed by wilderness. As Jefferson remained a part of Pennsylvania, the small county joined with Washington County in 1781, then in 1788, the land we know as Jefferson Hills became a part of Allegheny County. On January 22, 1828, Jefferson became the Jefferson Township. The name of the township originated from the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson Township borders what we know today as West Elizabeth, Baldwin, South Park, Clairton, and Pleasant Hills. Before Jefferson became a township, it was a part of the St. Clair Township, and the Mifflin Township. The Baldwin Township was formed from Jefferson in 1844. Also the Snowden Township, which is now South Park Township, was formed out of Jefferson Township in 1845. The residents of Jefferson almost doubled in only twenty years. The population rose from 1,601 residents, to 3,227 residents between 1860 and 1880. The growth of the town itself sprouted from the 1860’s, with schoolhouses being built, long with houses and churches in the mid 1800’s.
Many residents who resided in Jefferson were farmers, but as the industry grew, coal mining became a large part of the township. Many mining locations had small “communities” around them. Since many families worked in the coal mines when jobs were needed, coal mines would have amenities near the site for the workers such as homes, stores, and schools. Not only did coal supply Jefferson with jobs, but steel was an even larger contributor to the growth of the county. The amount of jobs needed for steel production was mainly held by residents of Jefferson Hills. And in Jefferson, many either worked with the steel mills, or for the steel mills. For in 1902, a brickyard was created in Jefferson Township to supply companies with bricks to build more steel mills. Jefferson played a large role in the growth of Pennsylvania and its communities with their work with steel production, and coal production. Almost a century later, a borough was created for Jefferson Township in 1950. Finally, Jefferson changed its name to Jefferson Hills on November 3, 1998.
The original area of Lincoln Place was a 106 acre farm land named Stoney Farm, which was owned by John Means. In 1898, Stoney Farm was purchased from John Means by Lula and Edwin Hazlett. The land was then subdivided into 936 different sections, and sold to various people looking for and of their own. More people were soon coming to these plots, and because of this, people were more difficult to keep track of in Lincoln Place. For example, voting was complicated for many residents of Lincoln Place. Votes were challenged because many of the people who voted were not known people, and had no real record on these people. To solve this solution, elections began being held in February of 1900. Before, the residents of Lincoln Place usually voted in Lebanon. Utilities were added in the community to meet the needs of the new residents of the plots. Pipes for water lines were built in 1894, along with pipes for natural gas in 1899. Around twenty years later, electricity became a widely used source of power in Lincoln Place, and electric streetlights were incorporate on the streets in the late 1920’s.
As the land of Lincoln place grew, an industry was growing along as well, in the township area and America, and that industry was the railways. The first railway was the Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Charleston Railroad, which was introduced into the Township’s region in 1870. During the turn of the century, many trolley lines ended in Lincoln Place, such as Homestead and Mifflin Street Railways, which would travel from 8th and Amity to Lincoln Place. By the 1930’s, many streetcar lines were built in other surrounding communities. In the early 1900’s, transportation was not the only advancement of Lincoln place. The area itself was growing, and because of that, the area became more separate of Mifflin Township. Lincoln Place was originally known to be a section of Mifflin Township, but in 1929, the city of Pittsburgh annexed Lincoln Place, making it a part of the 31st ward of Pittsburgh. This ward covered areas such as Hays, Lincoln Place, and New Homestead. Prior to this annexation, two attempts were made to incorporate Lincoln Place as a borough, but both failed due to insufficient taxes. After the annex of Lincoln Place, the area was formed into a bustling community. The small plot that was started in 1898 grew to a large, active community full of businesses, schools, mail services, and just about anything else to accommodate Lincoln Place, and the people that resided there.
The land of Pleasant Hills began as a large area of land suitable for many people to start farms because of the amount of space. The first owner of the land we know today as Pleasant Hills was named John Reed Jr. When the land was under his name, he named the area Reedsburg. Soon after Reedsburg was established, John’s brother-in-law, William Walker, joined him in the area and started a farm of his own named Pleasant Hill Farm. This farm was where we know today as Lebanon Church Road. More farmers came to Reedsburg in the late 1700’s to settle farms as well. Because of the profit whiskey produced in the eighteenth century, much of the crops grown in Reedsburg were for the production and making of whiskey. Many farms were successful until the 1790’s, where the government placed a high tax on whiskey.
Many farmers in the area were furious and refused to pay their levies to produce whiskey. Many farmers that did pay the levy had their stills destroyed by the angry farmers that refused to. As tensions grew, farmers started to lash out at the government itself. Fights broke out all over the area that is now known as South Hills today. Soon this became what we know as the Whiskey Rebellion. After the rebellion ended, many areas grew from Mifflin Township. For example, Jefferson Township sprouted from Mifflin Township in 1828. Jefferson lost some of its township to Baldwin Township and Snowden Township over the first eighteen years Jefferson was its own township Snowden Township is what we know as South Park Township today. After these areas settled, things were at peace for a whole century until 1930. Around the 1930’s, the Pleasant Hills area was slowly changing from a rural area for farms and crops, to a suburban area for residential homes and stores. Over time as development grew for these suburban homes, many residents of the area wanted to separate themselves from the rural life and farmlands. The amount of people that wanted to break away was enough for a petition to be produced that was made to make an official Borough from Pleasant Hills. When the Borough was created, the area consisted of 2,500 residents. The population rose to 10,500 in twenty-five years alone. Many of these residents worked for the larger steel companies that following counties had to offer. Today, Pleasant Hills has around 9,000 residents with 3,500 households.
In 1833, the village of West Elizabeth was established, and on May 3, 1848, a borough followed soon after. West Elizabeth’s beginnings were slow but progressive, with the construction of schoolhouses, churches, and other residential buildings. A post office was also constructed in 1845, with a man named Erastus Percival, who was the first postman. Most of all of the buildings that were erected were made of wood, which is where Eli Bentley came of use. Eli Bentley was the first settler in West Elizabeth to build a sawmill, and because of the vast wooded forests that surrounded West Elizabeth and all of Western Pennsylvania, acquiring the wood needed for the sawmill or the production of the sawmill was not an issue. Another sawmill was built in 1871, however, the mill was destroyed by a large fire on January 19, 1872. Another mill was rebuilt immediately afterwards. Like many other settlements would, West Elizabeth had mines in the lower area of the borough that would mine what Pennsylvania is rich with, coal.
West Elizabeth had a certain area established for mining since 1840. Coal has been a large industry when it came to the beginnings of these newly formed boroughs. Two companies that were early contributors to the coal mining were O’Neal & Company, and Walton & Company. These two companies are known as some of the earliest forms of companies that also participated in the mining of coal. Since the borough was growing bigger, the need to transfer goods in and out of the West Elizabeth community was increasing rapidly. In the fall, the Pittsburgh, Virginia, and Charleston railroad finally completed its task of connecting the surrounding areas by train to ensure a more progressive distribution of goods. The railroad was completed in 1873. Three years after the construction of the railroad, the population of West Elizabeth reached one thousand residents. Some old buildings were revitalized and redone in the future for example, the church. A lot was bought for the construction of a new church that would hold its first communion on November 9, 1846. The lot was where Fourth Street and Mills Street are today, and the area was purchased on April 18, 1846. The first pastor was initiated on October in 1869, and was named Reverend William Hanna. The borough of West Elizabeth is a borough of history, with the coal mines and railroads, but also for the churches and schools, which the same locations of these buildings are still used today.
West Homestead’s history starts in 1898, when the area was established. While most counties were worked by Carnegie Steel Company at this time, West Homestead’s jobs were supplied by a company called the Mesta Machine Company, which was founded by George Mesta. The company was created on November 21, 1898, and the mill was made to produce the machinery and equipment used in the steel mills themselves. For steel mills, the Mesta Machine Company was the most important mill in the production of steel. Mesta became the world’s largest mill for equipment manufacturing in the turn of the twentieth century. The Mesta factory was thirty acres in size and three stories tall dedicated to the production of steel producing machines. An attribute to the building that was significant to the productivity of the mill is that the entire building was made of fire-proof materials. Fire was never a problem in the Mesta Machine Company, but like every other steel based company in the 1900’s, safety was an issue that caused problems with the company and its workers. These accidents occurred near the railroads and train tracks that surrounded the Mesta Machine Company. This problem was resolved in 1913 when George Mesta designed a bridge over the tracks for workers or citizens to be able to cross safely. In the mid-1900’s Mesta was at its peak of production. Over 3,000 people were employed as foundry workers, machinists, or workers in constructing the steel machines. As their industry grew, so did the things they would make. Over time after the mid-1900, Mesta started making more machinery than just for steel production.
Some products included gears for specialty machines, components for ships, such as propellers, and also weapons were made for American troops for World War II. A large part that George Mesta was proud of was that everything was created with raw materials on-site. Mesta’s pride can also be traced from the work that was contributed for the American troops fighting World War II. Not only were weapons made, but engines were made, and specialty machines were forged to be used for the United States military. Thought the need for steel was gone in America by 1983, Homestead was still a county of workers and flourishing businesses. From bakeries, to knife companies, West Homestead continued to grow in productivity and people. However, many did find it difficult to find any jobs after the steel mills closed because of the amount that would work there. Over time the businesses that resided in West Homestead were more than enough to keep this county down after the end of the steel era.
West Mifflin’s history is derived from the foundation of the Mifflin Township itself. Mifflin Township covered almost twelve miles of the Monongahela River. The township’s boundaries consisted of present day Hays, which is 31st Ward of Pittsburgh, Homestead, Munhall, Whitaker, Duquesne, Dravosburg, Lincoln Place, Pleasant Hills, Clairton, Jefferson Hills, West Elizabeth, West Homestead, parts of Baldwin, and West Mifflin. Mifflin was one of the first seven townships, but it was never an area of a township, or even an area of Pennsylvania. Before the area was known as Mifflin Township, the area was a part of Yohogania County, which was a territory of Virginia. As the sections of Mifflin Township grew, so did the need for separation.
The first form of separation was from Jefferson Township being formed in 1828. This new township practically divided Mifflin Township by two. After the gain of another township in the western Pennsylvania area was incorporated, other boroughs began to form from the areas that made up the townships themselves. Soon after in 1843, West Elizabeth borough was then formed. Other individual boroughs were incorporated soon after, such as Blair, Wilson, and North Clairton. These boroughs would form to be the city of Clairton in 1922. A large part of Mifflin Township was also annexed in 1843. This area that was separated would become what we know as Baldwin Township. The first community to secede was Homestead in 1843, along with Duquesne in 1891, Dravosburg on 1903, and Whitaker in 1904. West Mifflin originated from when Mifflin Township broke apart after the other boroughs were incorporated. Mifflin became a borough on January 3, 1944, after being a township for 156 years. This was the first time a Township was formed into a borough. As a township, the area of West Mifflin stretched out 31.5 square miles, but as a borough, West Mifflin only covered 14.35. The name Mifflin originated from Thomas Mifflin, the first elected governor of Pennsylvania. His term served from 1744 to 1800. The prefix “West” in the name West Mifflin is because of the borough being in western part of Pennsylvania, since there was a town named Mifflin in Juniata County, and a Mifflin County in the Center of Pennsylvania. The separation of the counties caused problems with neighboring areas, and the companies that resided in them. U.S Steel had plans to build mills in the township of Mifflin, but fell through technically because of the seceding of the boroughs. West Mifflin is the last standing part of what was one of the original seven townships.
Whitaker was incorporated on January 4, 1904, and its history was mainly thanks to a man named Alfred J. “Dutch” Ackerman. Ackerman was born on January 10, 1893, where Whitaker would later be founded. Alfred Ackerman would start his political career in 1914 at the age of twenty-one where he would be a member of the borough council. After holding positions as the Chief of Police and Justice of the Peace, Ackerman was elected Burgess in 1938. When Alfred J. Ackerman was first in office, the borough of Ackerman was in very poor shape. There was no garbage collection or mail delivery, the streets were not paved nor had proper lighting, and the town had no form of sanitary sewer system. Along with the community problems, the town was in debt by over $6,000 dollars, even though taxes were very high. These would be Ackerman’s first problems as the new Burgess. One of the first solutions that were dealt with was the amount of car accidents that the town of Whitaker would have. Dutch was telling police officers to initiate more tickets to whoever was speeding. Before the tickets, in 1936 to 1937, twenty accidents occurred in one year alone. In 1948, only two accidents occurred in those eleven years passed. With Ackerman’s success with the reducing of accidents, Alfred worked his next step to improve Whitaker. With the help of The Works Progress Administration, the streets of Whitaker were paved, sidewalks were added, and the town finally got a proper sanitary sewer system.
Another problem was the lack of garbage collection in the town. Before the problem was resolved, people would carry their own garbage to the dump on Saturdays. Some would just leave their garbage around the town, making for a bad perspective of the Whitaker community and its people. The solution was fairly basic, as Alfred Ackerman simply hired five people to handle the community’s garbage. Most other Whitaker citizen worked in the steel mills. Ninety percent of people that had jobs in Whitaker worked at the steel mills. The mills were in Homestead, and the most used way to get to Homestead was by bus. However, in July, 1946, the Bamford Brothers Bus Company went on strike, leaving many steel employees helpless until the strike was over, at least until Alfred J. Ackerman found a way. What Alfred did was he bought a bus, and he drove workers to the mills for free with help from the drivers that were on strike. Whitaker had many problems at first, but they were all resolved because of a man that would not give up on the town he grew up in. That man was Alfred J. ‘Dutch” Ackerman.