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Naming names: Diverse list of individuals contributed to region’s history |

Naming names: Diverse list of individuals contributed to region’s history

| Sunday, November 3, 2002 12:00 a.m

A challenging and thought-provoking question is, “Who are the individuals who have contributed the most to southwestern Pennsylvania history?”

Different times, residents against non-residents, widely varying fields of endeavor, other area accomplishments, and many other factors make comparability quite difficult.

There are pioneer leaders, political and governmental figures, industrial titans, military personalities, educators, financiers, authors, clergymen, entertainers, merchants and more in the mix.

There are local people whose contributions were national or elsewhere. Hotel magnate Ellsworth M. Statler, once the largest hotel owner in the country, started in the family innkeeping business in his native Somerset County.

Non-residency can be a factor. For example, former President George Washington, a non-resident, is known for early explorations and military action in this area, and ultimately become the largest landowner in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Individual actions in earlier years had greater impact, while organizational and political channels have been more significant in later years.

As a start, this first listing of names could provide a candidate list for a historical hall of fame in southwestern Pennsylvania.

BENEDUM, Michael L. (1867-?), oil driller and merchant.

BLACK, Jeremiah (1810-1883), Somerset native, lawyer, activist, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, U.S. attorney general, secretary of state.

BLAINE, James G. (1830-1893), born West Brownsville, graduate of Washington College, went to Maine, served in many national posts, lost to Grover Cleveland in presidential election.

BOWMAN, John G. (1877-1962), head of Pitt and responsible for the Cathedral of Learning.

BRACKENRIDGE, H.H. (1748-1816), founded Pittsburgh Academy, led formation of Allegheny County, Supreme Court justice.

BRADFORD, David, Washington activist quite prominent in Whiskey Rebellion, moved to Louisiana.

BRASHEAR, John A. (1840-1920), Brownsville astronomer, lensmaker, became prominent at Pitt.

BUTLER, Gen. Richard (1743-1791), Revolutionary soldier, negotiator Indian treaties, Pittsburgh activist, killed in Northwest Territory.

CARNEGIE, Andrew (1835-1919), steel leader, philanthropist.

CARSON, Rachel (1907-1964), Springdale environmental author, leader.

COMO, Perry (1913-2001), Canonsburg singer.

COX, the Rev. James S., Pittsburgh Catholic priest and Depression activist.

CRAWFORD, William S., Virginia pioneer at Connellsville, military leader, George Washington agent.

CUMMINS, Albert B. (1850-1926), Greene native and Waynesburg grad, governor and U.S. Senate leader later from Iowa.

DAVIS, Arthur Vining (1866-1962), aluminum and Alcoa pioneer.

FAIRLESS, Benjamin (1890-?), industrial leader and post-World War II Pittsburgh activist.

FISHER, John S. (1867-1940), Indiana County leader, Pennsylvania governor.

FOSTER, Stephen C. (1826-1864), Pittsburgh native, songwriter.

FRICK, Henry Clay (1849-1919), Westmoreland native, coke developer, steel leader, cultural philanthropist.

GALLATIN, Albert (1761-1849), Swiss native, Fayette pioneer glassmaker, U.S. secretary-treasurer.

GEARY, John W. (1819-1873), Mt. Pleasant area native, Civil War general, first mayor San Francisco, governor of Kansas and Pennsylvania.

HALL, Charles M. (1863-1914), discovered aluminum and uses, started Pittsburgh Reducation (Alcoa).

HEINZ, Henry J. (1844-1919), native of Pittsburgh, food manufacturer, pure food pioneer.

HORNE, Joseph L., downtown Pittsburgh merchant, business leader.

HUNT, Capt. Alfred E. (1855-1899), metallurgist and engineer instrumental in developing Alcoa and aluminum.

JONES, Benjamin F. (1824-1903), native of Claysville, iron and steel leader, founder of Jones & Laughlin.

KAUFMANN, Edgar (1885-1955), Pittsburgh merchant and civic and architectural activist.

KELLY, Gene (1912-1996), Carnegie Tech grad and prominent motion picture star.

LANGLEY, Samuel P. (1834-1906), aviation pioneer, director of Allegheny Observatory, Pitt professor of physics, astronomy.

LATTA, John (1836-1913), Greensburg lawyer, first state lieutenant governor, acting governor in turbulent 1877 rail strike.

LAWRENCE, David L. (1889-1966), Pittsburgh mayor, state governor, led city Renaissance.

MAGEE, Christopher L. (1848-1901), railroad political agent, controlled county and city politics, officeholder.

This list will be concluded in next week’s Vignettes.


Nov. 3 has not been an eventful day in regional history, possibly because it often came just before Election Day, as it does this year.

Several items are noteworthy, however. In 1844, between Pittsburgh and Brownsville, the first system of locks and dams greatly improved navigability on the Monongahela River.

The first issue of the West Virginia University student newspaper, the Athaneum, was published in 1897.

And on an occasion when Nov. 3 was Election Day in 1925, Greensburg voters chose to advance the community from borough status to a third-class city by a vote of 2,181 to 1,994.


The National Register of Historic Places, often mentioned here, is the nation’s official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation by the U.S. Department of the Interior. This includes buildings, structures, sites, objects and districts.

Added to its already extensive roster during the early summer of this year were the Fulton building and H.J. Heinz Company at Pittsburgh, the William Cree house at Jefferson Township in Greene County, and Robert Parkinson farm, Morris township, Washington County.


George Washington made six trips into southwestern Pennsylvania on military missions and in connection with his extensive property holdings.

His first was in 1753 with Christopher Gist, followed by 1754 (Jumonville and Fort Necessity), 1755 (General Braddock) and 1758 (Forbes expedition).

His later trips in 1770 and 1784 were in connection with his property here. A seventh trip in 1794 in the Whiskey Rebellion got as far as Bedford, where he halted.


In the early 1800s in Somerset and other southwestern Pennsylvania counties, a basic part of instruction in elementary reading was for students to “mind their stops.”

That was to pause for punctuation while reading orally. The pause for a comma was to count one, at a semicolon to count two, at a colon to count four, and at a period to count six.

Some teachers required their pupils to say out loud the required counts whenever they came to a punctuation mark.


A yearlong celebration in 2003 will mark West Overton Museum’s 75th anniversary as a museum and 203rd year as a village.

The historic village was the birthplace of coke and steel figure Henry Clay Frick in 1849, and of Old Overholt whiskey, among many other distinctions.


Early Pittsburgh schools competing in athletics were in the WPIAL. By 1913, there were enough schools for a city league, but it was not until 1917 that such a league became a reality. Original schools were Allegheny, Fifth Avenue, Peabody, Schenley, South and Westinghouse.

South Hills joined in 1918, Langley in 1923, Oliver in 1925, Carrick and Perry in 1927, and Allderdice in 1930.

The original high school in Pittsburgh was Central, which had a 2-2 football record in 1892. Allegheny, originally not in the city until Allegheny City merged with the city in 1907, played Central in 1893, the latter winning by 14-0.

Other early football involved South High in 1898, Peabody in 1911 (won over Bellevue, 27-89), Fifth Avenue in 1912, Westinghouse in 1915 as successor to Brushton High, and Schenley in 1916 as successor to Central High. Most others started the sport in the 1920s.

Among unusual scores were South’s losses in 1920 to Peabody, 162-0, and Fifth Avenue, 142-0. A high scoring deadlock in 1969 was Carrick’s 30-30 tie with Peabody.

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