As many of my readers know, I live in Pittsburgh, an area rich in history. After reading about events happening in other areas, I am considering starting to put together a History focused event in the region. If you are interested, Please fill out this survey.
Long before the the night spots of Pittsburgh’s Strip District and Lower Lawrenceville, even before the English or French arrived at the Forks of the Ohio, there was a Lenni Lenape’ (Delaware) Village along the Allegheny known as Shannopin Town. The town was believed to be occupied by around 20 Lenni Lanape families. The village is believed to have been roughly from the shoreline of the river to roughly where Penn Avenue is today, and from 30th Street to Roughly 39th Street. The Lenape had fled westward to avoid the Iroquois and British colonists, and established a village here where they also were trading with both French and British traders, many traders and travelers would find Shannopin Town a hospitable place to stay in their travels. The town or village is believed to have been settled in the mid 1720’s.
In April 1730, the Pennsylvania Governor received a letter carried by three traders who often visited Shannopin Town asking the Governor to limit the free trade of rum and the numbers of people traveling the path from the European settlements in the East. The letter signed by Shawnoppean (which was also translated as Shannopin and Shannopean) and other from the village. The traders had also complained that the rum trade had caused traders in Shannopin town to go into debt to the traders.
In late 1753, George Washington and Christopher Gist would both stay at Shannopin’s Town during Washington’s mission to keep the French from taking the Forks of the Ohio. When George Washington traveled up the Venango Trail to deliver a message to the French, insisting that the French were trespassing on British land, Washington came back by following “The Piney Creek” based on he writings of Christopher Gist The creek meets the Allegheny river at current day Etna, Pennsylvania. Washington and Gist expected that they would find the river frozen, The river however had not completely frozen that late December day, so Gist and Washington had to make a raft to cross the river. Once they attempted to cross the unfrozen section of the river they were struck by an ice jam. Washington was thrown from the raft but managed to grab onto it with Gist pulling him aboard and they made their was to an island in the river staying overnight and continuing on the next day to Shannopin Town.
When the French found out that the English had begun to build a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, French military units sailed down the Allegheny river from Venango landing at Shannopin Town. The French Commander sent notice from Shannopin Town that they French Army intended to lay siege to the building the next day. The officer in charge at the Forks of the Ohio decided that it would be better to abandon the position rather than try to fight with a very small crew of tradesmen, so the next morning the men left with their belongings, and the French went on to build Fort Duquesne.
Shannopin town may not be the most recognizable name in the history of Western Pennsylvania. However, for the travelers who passed through and to the native population, the town was very important for trade and treaty.
October 30th, 1735 John Adams was born on a farm in Braintree, Massachusetts. John Adams was the son of Puritan colonists who have immediate lineage to those that arrived here on the Mayflower. While growing up, he would often skip school to hunt and fish and had a great love for the outdoors. While he would have preferred to become a farmer, his father felt that John should have a formal education.
At the age of 16 he had enrolled as a student at Harvard and after graduating, Adams decided that he wanted to go on to practice law. To pay for his training in the law, Adams taught at a Latin school in Worcester, Mass. from 1756 to 1758 while he studied the law with a prominent Worcester attorney. Adams became an attorney in Boston in 1758, it took him quite a few years to establish his legal practice in Boston and did not win his first case until three years later.
By 1770, Adams was the most prominent attorney in Boston carrying a very heavy caseload. He was married to Abigail , he had four children with a fifth on the way. On March 5, 1770, a large gathering of Bostonians were protesting British troops living in the city and taxes being laid by the British government. The crowd began to throw snowballs, ice and rocks at the British soldiers when shots rang out. after the shots five members of the crowd were dead or dying, three others were injured. While Adams had his own feelings against the British rule, he volunteered to defend the British officer and soldiers along with his friend and fellow attorney Josiah Quincy.
Despite public pressure from his fellow Bostonians including his own relative Samuel Adams, John Adams and Josiah Quincy mounted a heavy and calculated defense of the officer and soldiers involved. The strongest part of that defense was John Adams summation in the closing arguments of the trial. Because of Adams strong defense, none of the accused faced jail time. (I strongly suggest reading the summation that is linked, though it is longer than this article, it is profoundly articulate and gives a great look at John Adams not only as an attorney, but as a statesman and a man.)
Adams had strong feelings against the imposed British Taxes and the continued oppression of British rule. He was reluctant however to play a large role in the gathering protest against British rule fearing reprisal on his legal practice and his family. He had some distrust for many of the local leaders of the Sons of Liberty, including his own cousin Samuel Adams. However as the pressure of British rule increased, Adams began to anonymously write articles and essays against the British taxes and oppressive rule. Adams began to see that the British were trying to eliminate the autonomy of the colonies and began to openly speak out against British rule.
In 1774, Adams along with three other delegates from Massachusetts attended the First Continental Congress. John Adams worked to negotiate a peace between more conservative members of the congress and the more radical members. The Conservative members wanted to negotiate with Britain to come to better terms for the colonies, the more radical members wanted to immediately separate from Britain. What came out of the First Continental Congress was the Suffolk Resolves, an agreement that was a boycott of all goods from Britain, Ireland and some items from the West Indies. This boycott led to the repeal of the Intolerable Acts. The congress also resolved that the colonies “never ceded to any sovereign power a right to dispose of their rights to life, liberty and property without their consent”, in a statement that they sent to King George.
Adams was elected to attend the Second Continental Congress which convened in May of 1775 just days after Britain had began to fight colonial soldiers at Lexington and Concord. In June of 1775, after the congress created the Continental Army, Adams nominated George Washington to be the Commander. Adams would serve as the head of the committee of War and Ordinance, the group was in charge of supplying and outfitting the army. Adams served on 90 committees and was the chair of 20 of them. Adams would also become an outspoken leader for independence, he saw no way of mending the relationship with Britain while other members of the congress felt that they should work to repair the relationship.
Adams began to work with Thomas Jefferson, who despite many disagreements would become Adam’s lifelong friend. He also worked very closely with Benjamin Franklin whom he would travel to France with to negotiate French support for the revolution. Adams remained in France for much of the war to continue to court military aid and trade deals. In 1781, Adams worked with a team of Diplomats fro the Continental to negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolution. In the four years he spent in France, Adams only returned once.
Adams was well know as an independent thinker and a prolific writer in the 1770s and 1780s. He wrote “Thoughts on Government” in 1776, Adams wrote about a system of government with three separate branches of government, Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. Adams felt that keeping the powers of the government separated that no single branch would have all the power and it would prevent tyranny. These ideas would be adopted as a part of the constitution. Adams also spoke strongly in defense of the constitution when it was being debated.
In 1785, Adams became the first ambassador to Britain. King George III and the members of his government did not particularly like being Adams, a man who spoke openly of rebellion against British rule was now sent to negotiate with that same government. After three years of uncomfortable negotiation, Adams returned home. The HBO- John Adams mini-series gives a rather impressive idea of how uncomfortable the situation was, you can view that here.
Adams returned home with a hope of obtaining a position in the newly forming government under the new U.S. Constitution. Adams was well aware of the popularity George Washington, and had no expectation of beating him in the countries first presidential election, Adams ran, with plans to be Washington’s Vice President, A position he took after coming in second in the first election. Adams remained Washington’s Vice president through both terms.
Adams would become the second President of the United States. His presidency, is definitely worth a post to itself, which will come at a future date.
For further reading, I strongly suggest the follow sites and readings:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
– John Adams
I have been working at the Meadowcroft Museum in Avella, Pennsylvania. The museum is approximately 35 miles Southwest of Pittsburgh. Albert Miller who owned the property was dedicated to the preservation of the history of rural Washington County, he and his brother Delvin began to gather items of historical significance to the area. The Miller’s acquired 19th century buildings that were taken down and reconstructed on their property including several houses, a church, a one room school house and a blacksmith shop. once rebuilt, these items were opened to the public to tour and learn about the history. This 1890’s village has costumed historical interpreters in the working blacksmith shop, the school house and one of the log homes. During school and youth field trip, the staff opens up two more cabins to teach candle-making and fiber arts.
The museum also has a Monongahela Cultural Village, this village represents native life in the region prior to European contact in the era of the 1570’s. Here attendees will learn about the Native American culture of the region including how villages were built, hunting, farming and trade. The village is surrounded by a palisade wall and contains two Wigwam structures. Interpreters will show recreations of native tools and farming use, and you can try your luck with an Atl-Atl. The Atl-Atl is an early hunting instrument used to throw an arrow while increasing it’s velocity.
The Meadowcroft museum also has a museum dedicated to rural farming and travel which displays farming implements of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, horse carriages and an area dedicated to harness racing, Delvin Miller was the founder and owner of the Meadows Race Track near Canonsburg PA.
The latest addition to the Meadowcroft museum is the 1770’s Frontier area. The frontier area has a Native American Trade cabin, a half-face shelter that is currently being reconstructed and another log cabin structure that is under construction. In this area you can learn about colonial life and the fur trade.
The crown gem of the Meadowcroft museum is the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. The Rockshelter was on the Miller’s property and Albert Miller had suspected that it may have been used by native transients of the area in years past. Albert Miller had no idea how right he was. In November of 1955, Albert Miller happened upon a groundhog hole in the Rockshelter, being an inquisitive guy he dug down a bit and there he found some arrowheads. He placed them back and buried them and began to seek out an Archaeologist, it would be 18 years before he was able to get an archaeologist to come and see the site. Dr, James Adavasio who at the time was with the University of Pittsburgh agreed to come out and use the site as a training ground for students from a range of scientific fields. As they dug through layer upon layer of ground they found elements of culture ranging from the modern age back 16,000 to 19,000 years.
The Meadowcroft Museum is now part of the Heinz History Center family of museums. Beginning Labor Day, the museum is opened weekends only through the end of October. The museum is opened sixdays a week Memorial day through Labor Day. You can visit their website here.
On August 23, 1923 the Ku Klux Klan chose to have a march and rally in Carnegie Pennsylvania, a town that borders the Western side of the City of Pittsburgh. The new imperial wizard of the KKK, Hiram Wesley Evans had come from Texas for the rally and march. The Klan members gathered on a hill in Scott Township that overlooked Carnegie Borough, they initiated 1,000 new members and burned a very large cross.
Why Carnegie? Why Western Pennsylvania?
The steel industry and other industries needed workers, immigrants were settling throughout the region, as were African-Americans who fled from the South and a large number of Catholics were also among the immigrants. The Klan sought out “ordinary white Protestants and felt that the rise of immigrants, African- Americans and Catholics was a threat to them. Allegheny County, where Carnegie is located had a huge rise in Klan “Klaverns” a growth that continued to 1925 when there were thirty-three Klan Klaverns in Allegheny County alone, most of the surrounding counties in Western Pennsylvania had ten or less. (1) Carnegie itself had a very large immigrant population that were Catholic for the most part.
The Klan preferred to have marches and rallies at night, when it was easier to disguise their identity, hide any weapons they may be carrying and be more of a spectacle, disturbing the peace of the night. The rallies would contain fiery speeches and bands playing military style songs.
When the Klansmen reached the border of Carnegie Borough, a borough burgess John F. Conley, himself and Irish Catholic, met them and told the marchers that they had no permission to enter the town. Evans told the gathered Klansmen they were not welcome, but the marchers chose to continue the march. Carnegie Borough lacked a formal permit process for a parade, so the town had no legal standing to stop the Klan from marching.
In the planning for the march, the Klan worked with the Carnegie Police Chief, Christ Kiesling who was a Klan member to assure their ability to march. The police chief met with members of the local Klan at the Klan office in Pittsburgh. The plan was that Chief Kiesling would stop the marchers when they entered Carnegie, giving the parade marshal a chance to grandstand and state, “This is a free town, and we are going to march here anyway.” The Klan in their preparations for the march advised their members to bring weapons with them.
Before the march had even started, local constable Ira Irving arrested ten Klan guards who were carrying loaded weapons while they were directing parking for other Klan members. The Police chief was ordered by Burgess Conley to notify the Allegheny County Sheriff and County detectives know about the march and the possibility of violence, Police Chief Kiesling did follow through on Conley’s order and sheriff’s deputies were sent to the area. (1)
The Klansmen had planned to march into Carnegie over a railroad trestle that crossed Chartiers Creek, but found the trestle to be blocked. When the marchers reached the Glendale Bridge they found that a truck was blocking the bridge. The marchers pushed the truck out of the way and continued marching. When the truck was moved out of the way, the marchers remained at a stand still. They faced a crowd that was there to resist letting the Klan continue their march, for nearly a half hour the groups pushed, shouted and threw items at each other.
John Dillon, the Chief Deputy Sheriff of Allegheny County was in Carnegie after receiving the call for assistance. Dillon had received word that two of his motorcycle deputies were injured in the stand off between the groups. Dillon responded along with other deputies. Dillon climbed on top of a car and told the Klan members to disperse in order to preserve the peace, while of the marchers did honor the Sheriff’s wishes, many more chose to continue, refusing to disperse. The deputies, some police officers and citizens helped to get the opposing crowds separated. When a Klan official tried to address the Klan members from the vehicle leading the march, he was assaulted with items thrown at him, the car was vandalized and the glowing KKK letters were ripped from the vehicle. The Klansmen chose to continue marching into the borough.
The Klansmen, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” pushed through the crowd blocking them with a great deal of force. Chief Deputy Dillon was nearly pushed off of the bridge and others were trampled as the marchers continued. Bricks and stones began to fly at the the Klansmen, Townspeople began to arrive with clubs. A large battle began to rage on West Main Street, reports say that gunshots were heard several times. Constable Ira Irving arrived to try to help the Sheriff’s deputies, he rode to the front of the crowd trying to clear the streets to avoid any further violence. As the Klan marchers reached the center of town, shots could be heard from every direction, both sides were firing guns at this point.
Just after midnight on August 26, shots could be heard near Main Street, some of the Townspeople who assumed they were being shot at by the Klan members returned fire. One Klansman, Thomas Rankin Abbott of Atlasburg, Pennsylvania laid dead at the intersection of Third and Main Street. Some of the other Klansmen carried Abbot to a nearby doctor’s office, but there was no chance of revival. The crowds began to dissipate Most of the Klansmen retreated across the Glendale Bridge where they were met by cars to take them back to the farm where they rallied. Sheriff’s deputies and Police Reserve officers from the City of Pittsburgh arrived to help restore order. Many Klansmen and citizens of Carnegie were injured in the conflict. One local man and another Klansman had received gun shot wounds, they both survived. County detectives were only able to get statements from the severely injured that had been transported to hospitals.
Due to a code of silence among the Klan members, no Klan members were arrested, however many local citizens were arrested for inciting a riot. Following a lead from the a Carnegie citizen Harry Albright, an arrest was made in the murder of Abbott. Albright told detectives that he saw a popular local undertaker named Paddy McDermott fire the shots that killed. McDermott was charged with murder. Albright had been marching with the Klansmen and several of the other witnesses that appeared identified McDermott, many of these witnesses were also Klan members. Several other witnesses appeared stating that multiple Klan members had also fired weapons in the street in Carnegie. A Coroner’s inquest jury could not find reason to continue formal homicide charges against McDermott. After McDermott’s release, Klan members arranged a $2,500 reward for evidence connecting McDermott to Abbott’s murder.
The Klan used Abbott as a Martyr for their cause and as a recruiting tool. They portrayed themselves as victims of “The Mob of Carnegie.” The reports in the Klan’s newsletters blamed the crimes and violence on Irish hooligans and the town councilman Conley and Chief Deputy Dillon were partly responsible because they were Catholics. No Klansmen were ever charged with a crime from the Carnegie incident, the Carnegie citizens that were charged were found guilty.
Craig, John M. “”THERE IS HELL GOING ON UP THERE”: THE CARNEGIE KLAN RIOT OF 1923.” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies 72, no. 3 (2005): 322-46. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27778683.
In 1778, General George Washington had concerns in the West. The British Army still held a fort at Detroit. Washington needed a strong defense, and he wanted it in the Ohio Country. Washington and the Continental Congress decided to send General Lachlan McIntosh to Fort Pitt, the fort was in control of the Continental Army and McIntosh was needed there.
McIntosh was born in Scotland in 1725, his father moved his family along with nearly 100 other Scots to Georgia in 1736, the elder McIntosh led the group and founded the town of New Inverness in Georgia (later renamed Darien). Later in his life Lachlan McIntosh would find work in a counting house with Henry Laurens, McIntosh and Laurens would end up becoming great friends. Laurens would later become the President of the Continental Congress. McIntosh whose family had a long military heritage would begin to study military science. When the American evolution broke out, McIntosh, who had received strong anti- British influence from Henry Laurens would join the revolutionary cause on the side of the continental army. in January of 1776, McIntosh was appointed Colonel of Georgia’s Troops and by September he was name a Brigadier General in the Continental Army.
Upon his arrival at Fort Pitt, McIntosh was to meet with three advisers sent by the Continental Congress from York, Pennsylvania. The advisers wanted McIntosh to develop a plan to remove the British from their outpost at Detroit. The advisers also wanted a force to cut down the number of raids against settlers in the Ohio Country. McIntosh knew he didn’t have the manpower to handle such a task, and the Continental Congress did not have the funds to support sending a large amount of troops to the West. McIntosh would try recruiting troops for the Continental Army from the frontier at Fort Pitt.
McIntosh felt that a part of securing the region from attacks, and a show of force against the British was to build and garrison forts in the Ohio Country. He charges the French Engineer, Chevalier DeCambray with the building of a fort at the mouth of the Beaver Creek. Upon completion of the fort in 1778, DeCambray would name the fort Fort McIntosh, in honor of Lachlan McIntosh.
In January of 1785, Fort McIntosh would be the meeting place of the new United States Government and over 400 representatives of the Chippewa, Delaware, Ottawa and Wyandot nations. In the Treaty agreed to at Fort McIntosh, the native nations would agree to settlements in the areas north of the Ohio River (now Western Pennsylvania and North Eastern Ohio). The treaty carved a large area reserved for the native nations in Western and Southern Ohio. The treaty itself was essentially a failure from the beginning since the Shawnee were not brought in as part of the negotiations and much of the land being ceded was their territory. Also, most of the native representatives that were present at the negotiations did not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of their nations.
After the war, the fort would remain garrisoned with some supply staff from West Point and Fort Pitt, as well as militia from the region. Colonel Joshua Harmar named the regiment, ” The First American Regiment.” The regiment also gained the nickname, “The Old Guard” a name which sticks with it today. As part of the United States Army “The Old Guard” is now the official ceremonial unit for the President and the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, they are also the force to protect Washington D.C. in times of national emergency.
Fort McIntosh itself was abandoned in late 1785, an archaeological dig in 1974 found some of the structural remains of the fort. The land it currently marked with a historic marker and maintained by the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation.
In 1982 some vintage car enthusiasts wanted a chance to race their beautiful and historic cars. Art McGovern thought that Pittsburgh’s Oldest Park would be a beautiful and challenging setting for the drivers, he and Mary Beth Gmiter began to plan, and soon those plans gathered a following that was meeting in driver Alan Patterson’s Garage. Soon adding local TV and Radio personality and the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Myron Cope to the mix.
The committee decided that the race could be used to raise money for local charities, which would be helpful in a time when Pittsburgh had just witnessed and felt the results of the collapse of the steel industry. Many Pittsburgh charities had see a fall in their contributions and a greater need for help in that time period. The charities chosen were the Allegheny Valley School which helps special needs children with basic education and activities of daily living, the other charity being the Autism Society of Pittsburgh which helped parents with autistic children and those with autism a vast amount of their needs. The groups also gained support of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA).
Because they wanted the race in Schenley Park, the idea came with one issue; Mary Schenley who donated the land for the park to the City of Pittsburgh did so with the caveat that an entry fee could not be charged for the park. Through working with the City of Pittsburgh, then Mayor Caligiuri and the Citiparks office, the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix was born, with the first race scheduled for Labor Day weekend, 1983.
Since that first race, the activities of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Association have expanded. They have added race week activities including a Road Rallye, car shows at multiple places around the city of Pittsburgh and a Black Tie Gala on the Friday before the races. The PVGP has also added a second weekend of racing at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex (PittRace). All of these activities are organized an run by an amazing group of volunteers dedicated to the charities
Over the years that the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix has been in existence they have given over $5 Million to the charities. In 2019, the races will be held at Schenley Park the weekend of July 20-21. To find out more about Race Weekend visit their website.