The Family of Rosa Anna Abbott and John Joseph LaValle

Lower St. Clair Township History

This township history is transcribed from History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Volume II, A. Warner & Co., Publishers, Chicago, Ill., 1899, Chapter V, pp. 49-54.

(Lower St. Clair only)

An account of the formation of St. Clair township, and of its division so far as definite information on that subject extends, has been given in the preceding chapter. The name was conferred in honor of Gen. St. Clair, with whom Justice Wallace was personally acquainted, a man well known in the county, and then at the zenith of his fortunes.

Arthur St. Clair, a grandson of the early of Roslyn, was born at Thurso, Scotland, in 1734. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, studied medicine, inherited a large fortune from his mother, and entered the British army as ensign May 13, 1757. He came to America in the following year, and served under Amherst at Louisburg. He was promoted to a lieutenancy April 11, 1759, and was with Wolfe at Quebec. In 1760 he married Phoebe Bayard, of Boston, and in 1762, the French wars having closed, he resigned his commission. In 1764 he settled in Ligonier valley, Westmoreland county, where he erected mills and a fine residence. He was surveyor of the district of Cumberland in 1770, and subsequently justice of the quarter sessions and common pleas court, and member of the proprietary council. In 1771 he was made justice, recorder and prothonotary of Bedford county, and held similar offices in Westmoreland in 1773. In July, 1775, he was made colonel of militia, and appointed colonel of the Second Pennsylvania regiment January 3, 1776, in which capacity he accompanied Sullivan in his Indian expedition. He was commissioned brigadier general August 9, 1776, and detailed to organize the New Jersey militia. He participated in the movements which ended in the battle of Princeton. He was appointed major general February 19, 1777. and succeeded Gates in command at Philadelphia. April 1, 1777, he took command at Ticonderoga; he was forced to evacuate this fort, lost prestige, and was retired from command almost at the moment of victory. He was court-martialed, but acquitted with honor in September, 1778. In March, 1780, he was appointed a commissioner to treat with the British at Amboy, and from that time to the close of the war he was in active cooperation with Washington and Greene. He was member of the house of censors of Pennsylvania in 1783; of the Continental Congress from 1785 to 1787, serving as president in the latter year. In February, 1788, he was appointed first governor of the Northwest territory. Two years later he named Cincinnati and fixed his seat of government there. March 4, 1791, he became commander of an army for the pacification of Indian troubles in Ohio, and was defeated with great loss November 4, 1791. He was vindicated by a congressional committee, but resigned in 1792. He was removed from office of governor in 1802 by Jefferson, and returned to his first residence in the western country, near Greensburg, where he passed the remainder of his days in straitened circumstances, if not in poverty, dying August 31, 1818.


Though formerly quite extensive, Lower St. Clair has become one of the smallest subdivisions of the county. It originally extended from Chartiers creek to Street's run, including all that part of Pittsburgh n the South Side, the boroughs of Knoxville, Beltzhoover, West Liberty and Green Tree, Chartiers, and Union townships, and the larger part of Baldwin, in addition to the present area. The population in 1860 was 4,617; in 1870, 5,522; in 1880, 2,329.

The thickly settled district is known as Mt. Oliver, in the northern and western part of the township. It is conveniently accessible by street railways and inclined planes. There are no manufactures of any importance, and the people find employment in the city. The extensive coal works at Beck's run are owned by the estate of James H. Hays. Frederick Hampe, the first postmaster at Mount Oliver, was appointed in February, 1874. He was succeeded by John Conrad in September, 1885.

St. Joseph's German Catholic Church, Mount Oliver, was dedicated November 20, 1870. The cornerstone was laid October 4, 1868, and the first movement toward the building project was made July 12th preceding. The site was secure prior to the civil war, and fortified for the protection of the city. The membership was formerly connected with St. Michaels, and was separately organized by Father Luke. The cemetery of St. Peter's Church is also in this township. St. Paul's congregation is the only other religious body, but neighboring churches of other denominations are largely represented to their membership.

Beltzhoover Borough. - This borough was incorporated June 9, 1875. It had previously been separated from Lower St. Clair, in 1869, to form part of Allentwon borough, a portion of which was consolidated with the city of Pittsburgh. Thus dismembered, the remaining portion became a part of the township until separately organized as above stated. The name is that of a prominent family of the vicinity. The population was 564 in 1880, but has largely increased since that date. There are no manufactures or other industries. The postoffice of Beltzhoover was established in September, 1882, by the appointment of Eliza Ricketts, who was succeeded by Elizabeth Ruckert in November, 1882, and Carline Walters in September, 1885. The borough limits include a small cemetery.

West Liberty Borough.-This borough was incorporated March 7, 1876, from the western part of Lower St. Clair, Saw Mill run being nearly identical with the eastern and northern boundaries. The village proper is a small hamlet on the old Pittsburgh and Washington road, but the adjacents of Mount Washington and the country on the line of the Castle Shannon railroad are comparatively thickly settled. The population was 865 in 1880, and has since increased to some extent. A small Methodist Episcopal church is the only religious body. Fetterman post-office has existed since June, 1876, excepting the period between February 27th and May, 1878. Mary Beltzhoover is the postmistress.

Knoxville Borough.-This was incorporated September 7, 1877, from that part of Lower St. Clair adjoining Beltzhoover and Allentown. Jeremiah Knox became a resident here in the early part of this century, and established the Knox fruit-farm, one of the most widely and favorably known of its class for many years. The strawberry known as "No. 700" was originated here. From its location on the second range of hills from the river, this vicinity enjoys an immunity from the smoke and fogs which frequently prove so disagreeable to residents of Mount Washington, Mount Oliver, and other suburbs. Mr. Knox disposed of a number of building lots in the eastern part of the town as early as 1872, and in 1880 the borough had a population of 393. Its development from that time has been energetically fostered by the Knoxville Land Improvement company, incorporated in 1880 by F. Bausman, W. W. Knox, A. K. Mathews and W. W. Knox, Jr. This corporation operates the Knoxville brickworks, stone-quarries, coal mines and lumber yards, empoying 300 men.

All the brick houses in the borough have been built since 1880, and the general appearance of the town is far superior to that of the surrounding built-up territory. The principal streets have been improved, and the Pittsburgh, Knoxville & St. Clair Electric railroad renders it conveniently accessible from the city. Besides the establishments noted, the Success Engine-works, E. E.Carter & Co., and the Pittsburgh Shoe works are in active operation, employing several hundred operatives. The population is estimated at 2,500. There are two churches, Presbyterian and Methodist Protestant. Rev. W. F. Braddock is pastor of the former and George W. Morris of the latter, which is being rebuilt as a brick edition.