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Johnston sons excel in business, politics |

Johnston sons excel in business, politics

Robert B. Van Atta
| Sunday, June 27, 2004 12:00 a.m

The sons of Alexander and Elizabeth Freame Johnston, who built the historic Kingston stone house in 1815 along what became Route 30 in Unity Township, achieved a variety of distinctions.

William Freame Johnston, for example, born at Greensburg in 1808, read law with Maj. John B. Alexander and was admitted to the bar at Greensburg in 1829. He moved to Armstrong County and rose through local and state politics to state senator. Elected Senate president, he served as acting governor when Gov. Shunk resigned in 1848. At a special election that year, he was chosen as governor and served until 1852.

William went into business after leaving the top state post, and organized troops and area defenses for the Civil War. He died in October 1872.

William’s brother, Alexander, born in 1812 at Youngstown, became a railroad contractor, helped to build the county courthouse, and served as president of the Greensburg and Stoystown Turnpike, among his business enterprises. Another brother, John, born at Kingston House in 1820, was educated at Greensburg Academy, served as a captain in the Mexican War, contracted railroads, rose to the rank of colonel in Civil War action, and later resided at the house at Kingston.

  • Summer evenings and Sunday afternoons found many southwestern Pennsylvania residents riding on open summer cars used by West Penn Railways and other trolley lines in the early part of this century. There was usually a scramble for the front seat, the most popular.

    When the first trains ran between Pittsburgh and Radebaugh, just west of Greensburg, in 1852, the one-way passenger fare was 80 cents.

  • The tenor of bygone years as June ended and July began is quite varied, summer tragedies mixing with progress in a kaleidoscope of history.

    June 28: On June 28, Smicksburg in Indiana County became a borough in 1854 … Rillton post office in Westmoreland was established in 1888 … The Monessen newspaper, The Daily Independent, first published in 1902 … The interurban railway between Pittsburgh and Roscoe, near California in Washington County, shut down in 1953 … and the Meadows race track opened 41 years ago in 1963.

    A 1915 event was the purchase of the first auto fire truck for Greensburg by a committee of firefighters who traveled to Pittsburgh for a demonstration of the Lange firefighting machine.

    The truck, with a 50-horsepower motor, cost $3,800, fully equipped with 200 feet of hose, a chemical “arrangement,” and carried 24 men. Funds to buy it were raised by public subscription, citizens realizing the familiar old hose carts were obsolete.

    Four days later, the vehicle was exhibited on Greensburg’s Main Street as the firemen learned how to operate it.

    June 29: Lock Four post office in the Mon Valley was established on June 29, 1861 … and the Pennsylvania Turnpike was substantially completed in time to meet a July 1, 1940, federal financing deadline. However, the pike from Irwin to Carlisle was not opened until Oct. 1.

    June 30: Of much more significance later than at the time, Oakland and much of the area east of Pittsburgh was officially annexed, June 30, 1868, when the city was redistricted on an expanded basis.

    State legislation had approved the annexation in 1867, subject to approval by areas involved. Some of the areas to the north and south, at the time, declined to merge.

    Little known is the fact that the Oakland area was formed into a township by that name, Nov. 17, 1866, from one of the county’s originals, Pitt Township. It was a short-lived township.

    One of Oakland’s major attractions, Forbes Field, was dedicated before 30,338 fans in 1909 as the Pirates lost, 3-2, to the Cubs on June 30.

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