Pitcairn Historical Society
Sharing the history of Pitcairn, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Pioneering Families

Pioneering Families

  1. About this page

    Profiles of Pitcarin’s Pioneering Families

    The families profiled here are some of those that arrived early in the Patton Township/Pitcairn area (before the Civil War), and generally stayed here for some time, at least through several generations, to contribute to building the community. They are only a sampling, representative of the many who came here to build new lives throughout our history. 

    It should be noted that, like many of the projects on this website, the Pioneering Families project is a work-in-progress.  We invite contribution that add to, or correct the record with new evidence.  Family photos are always welcomed. Feedback should be sent to:

     

    [email protected]

    or one of the other contacts on the directory page


  2. Aeneas McKay (1769)

    Aeneas McKay

    In 1769, Aeneas McKay, a resident of Fort Pitt who served in the British colonial government, was granted a warrant for a 300-acre tract of land he had come upon one day when exploring the Turtle Creek Valley on horseback.

    He was already a prominent citizen of Pittsburgh when, in 1773, Westmoreland County was established in Western Pennsylvania, encompassing what is today’s Allegheny County.  Hannastown was designated as the county seat -- but not without some controversy.  It was McKay who wrote a letter expressing the opposition to the choice:

    “ Where is the convenience for transacting business there since there are neither houses, tables nor chairs. The people must sit on the roots of trees and on stumps, and in case of rain, the lawyers books and papers must be exposed to the weather. Nothing can be done except receiving fees, and everybody attending court, except lawyers, must be sufferers.”

    During this period as settlements moved westward, and the vague boundaries between the American colonies had to be more clearly drawn, disputes arose.  The land west of Alleghenies was being claimed by two colonies: Pennsylvania and Virginia. Once again, Aeneas McKay was to lead the opposition as one of the local magistrates who sided with Pennsylvania over the disputed territory. In 1774, he and his fellow magistrates, at some peril, were to lead the fight and win against Virginia’s efforts to form a militia under Virginia’s authority in Pittsburgh.

    Even though he had bought land further east, McKay continued to live in Pittsburgh.  If he had any plans to eventually settle on his new farm land in the Turtle Creek Valley, they must have been put on “hold.”  For in 1776 the Revolutionary War broke out, and in July of that year Congress authorized the raising of a battalion of continental troops from Western Pennsylvania.  Aeneas McKay was instrumental in organizing the 8th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, and was commissioned its Colonel in 1776.  The regiment spent that fall at its camp in Kittaning, and that winter started out on a march over the mountains towards Philadelphia.  Badly-equipped and supplied, the poorly-clothed soldiers suffered and died during that grueling winter march, including the regiment’s Colonel, Aeneas McKay, who died in January 1777.

    McKay’s land (the “Dirty Camp tract” as it was then called) was then passed to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Major Stephen Bayard. The neighboring land (“Rich Camp”) owned by his son, Samuel McKay, was also sold to the Bayards.  Stephen and Elizabeth Bayard then moved on to buy land on the east bank of the Monongahela river and there they founded  Elizabeth Town (later, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania) ; the combined tracts they left behind being eventually sold to a John McGinnis to form the core of the modern Borough of Pitcairn.

    While Aeneas McKay never actually resided on his land in the Turtle Creek Valley, his place as the first European settler to be granted land in what is today’s Pitcairn, places him among the areas’ pioneering families.

     _____________________________

    Sources:

     Pitcairn, Pa, 1894-1944: 50th Anniversary Souvenir Book.

    Western Pennsylvanians : a work for newspaper and library reference.  Charles Alexander Rook , et al. (eds). James O. Jones Company: Pittsburgh: Western Pennsylvania Biographical Association, 1923.

    Boucher, J.N. and  Woolf, J. History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania  v.1.  

    Boyd, C. Minute Book of the Virginia Court held for Yohogania County :First at Augusta Town (now Washington, Pa.), and afterwards on the Andrew Heath farm near West Elizabeth; 1776-1780 / v.2  County Court (Yohogania), Virginia.


  3. Stewart (1780)

    Descendants of John Stewart (1722-?)

    John Stewart (1) came from County Tyrone Ireland emigrating to America in 1745 to settle initially in eastern Pennsylvania.  At about the time of the Revolutionary War, he crossed the mountains to Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County.  He settled there with his wife Ellen and the couple were to have eight children.

     One of those children, John Stewart (2) (1766-1821), was to become a Captain in the militia. He married Jane Cavett of Patton Township in 1789, and they had two sons: Alexander who went west, and John Stewart (3) (1796-1865) who established himself on a farm in southern Patton Township in the early 1800s.  That land was on what was to become Stewart Station, so named when a piece of the farm became a station along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s route through the Turtle Creek Valley.   The modern Borough of Trafford is partly built on the Stewart farm.

     John Stewart (3) married Margaret Shaw {1799-1858} in 1821, and they had numerous children including two who served as a civil war surgeons: Dr. Samuel Stewart (who later moved to Pittsburgh), and Dr. William Stewart.  Major Robert E. Stewart also served in the civil war, and later moved to Braddock and became a District Attorney for Allegheny County.

     Another of their sons, Thomas Shaw Stewart (1833-1896) was born at Stewart Station, and at the age of seventeen he got a position teaching school at Baker’s schoolhouse.  According to one old history:

    His was a most unruly aggregation of scholars, a certain element in the school having worsted and thrown out a succession of teachers. Mr. Stewart went to his brother John, then on the school board, and insisted that he was capable of handling the school. He persisted in the face of continual refusal, and finally had his way. Although not of remarkable physical development he conquered his small domain, subduing or ousting the unruly element. and for two or three years taught the school successfully. He became a farmer, passing his entire life on the homestead known as ‘Stewart Farm.’

     Thomas Shaw Stewart married Nancy Hurst, and one of his sons, John Irwin Stewart was born at Stewart Station, graduated from Westminster College in 1893 and from the Allegheny Theological Seminary in 1896. From 1896 to 1901 he cultivated the old “Logan farm” in Penn Township, before moving to Irwin, and becoming the Secretary for the Parr Wagon Company of Greensburg.

    When John Stewart (3) died in 1865, his son David moved into the old homestead, where he continued to operate the farms until the property was bought by Westinghouse in 1902. David Stewart died the following year.

    The Stewarts played a significant role in the early history of the area and became one of the founding families of Trafford.

    _______________________________________

    Sources:  John N. Boucher, History of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania. New York: The Lewis publishing company, 1906.

    Trafford 75th Anniversary (1904-1979) Souvenir Book.


  4. McMunn (1788)

    McMunn Family

    This family is one of the oldest in the upper Turtle Creek Valley. They trace their roots from the later part of the 18th century when three brohers came from Ireland: Alexander, Joseph, and Daniel.

    Alexander (1753-1829) may have came to the area from Maryland around the time of the Revolutionary War. He marries three times, hislast wife being Margaret McDowell Alexander.  He bcame an established farmer, and was later a constable for Pitt Township.

    Joseph (1759-1854) also stayed to farm the area. One of his sons, Captain Issac N. McMunn served in the Civil War and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg -- wounds that were to plague him the rest of his life. In November 1882, the body of Capt. Issac McMunn was found floating in the Ohio River.

    Daniel (1803-1874) married Martha George (1803-1874) and they had several children.

    One of their sons, Daniel W. McMunn II (1839-1929) worked at the Capt. Samuel S. Brown coal works at Saltsburg while living in Monroeville, and later Turtle Creek.  With the outbreak of  the Civil War he enlisted in August 1862 , serving in Co.1, 123rd Pa. Heavy Artillery. Pa Vol. Reg; and later in Company E. Family lore has it that...

    …during the early days of the war, the draft board sent around agents to draft Daniel McMunn. His mother told them he was already serving, but they didn’t believe her and  a dispute followed.  She offered to pay the government men money if they would go away and stop bothering the family. They took $25. and left.  When Daniel arrived home after walking from Virginia (his first enlistment being completed), he heard the story of the draft board agents, and promptly went down  to re-enlist.

     Daniel McMunn was wounded at Fredricksburg, and later returned to his regiment.

     Upon his discharge in June 1865, he went back to work at the Saltsburg mines.  He remained at the Brown mines until 1874 when the new Edgar Thompson Steel Plant opened in Braddock. He held a number of positions in the mill, including “vessel repaiman,” until his retirement at age 70.

     He had three brothers (David, William and Zack) and four sisters (Susan, Rachel, Nancy, and Martha). Two of his brothers also served in the Union Army, David having served in the same regiment, and was later killed by an express train along the tracks near the Larimer Station.  The other brother, William who served with the 63rd Reg. Pa. Vol., died of wounds he received at the battle of Nelson’s Farm on June 30, 1862.

     Daniel McMunn lived for some years at Fort Perry, at Turtle Creek, in Wall, and then in Pitcairn. He was married to Mary Catherine Jenker. Danile McMunn is buried in Versailles Cemetery, McKeesport.

    ____________________________

    Sources:

    Daniel C. McMunn, “Onohenarian Life is Bound in Valley History.”  Newspaper obit,  unk.

    McMunn Family notes, courtesy of Scott McMunn


  5. Barr (1810)

    The Barr Family

     

    The Barr family, along with the McGinnises, the Nasers, and the Glews, were among the handful of early 19th century settlers of what was to become Pitcairn.  The family that came to Plum (later Patton) Township included three brothers: John (1801-1891), William (1805-1883), and James (1807-1879); and three sisters Mariah (1809-1891), Rebecca (1815-1899), and Mary (b. 1825), many of whom stayed in the area

     

    Of the three brothers, John Barr married Maria Grove (1805-1851), and the couple were to have 9 children including William James Barr (1843-1903) who was born on the family farm at Walls Station, and later served in the Civil War.  Although he was a farmer, John also worked as a carpenter; skilled at turning a lathe in making furniture – a skill acquired by several members of the Barr family.

     

    By the mid-1800s, John’s brother, William Barr had acquired a farm at the southern tip of Patton Township (in today’s Pitcairn).  Both John and William worked the family farm, and eventually William was to leave the farm to a daughter of his brother John – Margaret J. Barr.  William’s will included the “mansion house, stable, spring house and other small buildings.” Two cows and all household and kitchen furniture were also left to Margaret.

     

    James Barr married Susan J. Ritchie (1816-1885); the couple had 10 children, and eventually the family moved to Pittsburgh.  The Barrs were Presbyterians, and James Barr was among the signers of the petition asking the Presbyterian authorities to ratify the Crossroads Congregation in 1837.  One of the sons of James and Susan J, was William Shields Barr.

     

    William Shields Barr (1836-1907) worked for a while as a “coal tipper” when mining came to the area in the late 1800s. He was to marry Priscilla Curry, and by the 1880s he and his family were living next door to the Nasers at 1900 Broadway in Pitcairn. By this time William was working as a watchman for the new industry in town – the Pennsylvania Railroad. 

     

    Several of the descendants of William S. and Priscilla Barr, including Samuel Barr, Cordillia Barr Haire, and Susan Barr Keeley were among the later generations of Barrs who lived their lives in the Pitcairn area.

    ______________________________________

    Sources: Barr Family Notes from Donald Green, Archives of the Monroeville Historical Society


  6. Tilbrook (1818)

    Descendants of William Tilbrook (1757-1810)

    The Tilbrooks emigrated from England to Virginia in 1790, and in 1800 the family moved to Versailles Township, Pennsylvania.

    In 1818, William Tilbrook (1757-1810) moved out of the family home and settled on a farm in Patton Township (today’s Monroeville) Pennsylvania, and married Martha Taylor. William was to become an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and over the years the Tilbrook family would become members of the Crossroads Church serving in leadership positions as elders and trustees.

    Willliam and Martha had a number of children, many of whom continued in the family’s farming tradition and were to become, according to one early history “..gentlemen of worth and honor, citizens of the highest type.”

    Joseph (1820-1897) was one of the sons of William and Martha who was active in the family farming business.   In 1846 he married Lucinda McDowell (1824-1904); the couple were to have six children.  In 1883, their eldest son, William Alexander Tilbrook, a railroad worker, was killed by a flatcar he was trying to stop at a switch at Stewarts Station in Trafford.

     Another son, William (1828-1894) married Jane Ann Hughey (1834-1920), took over the family homestead, and became a successful farmer in his own right. He was to serve in the Civil War as a Sergeant of artillery in the 212th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

     ne of the sons of William and Anne, Oscar Thomas Tilbrook (1874-1943), spent his entire life on the family farm and rose to gain  “…a leading place among the leading farmers of the region...favorably known to all acquainted with his upright and manly career.”

    Generations of Tilbrooks have contributed to the history Pitcairn. J. F Tilbrook and Oscar Tilbrook (who was later to become a Borough Councilman) were among the original signers of the petition for the Borough Charter for Pitcairn in the 1890s.   And Tilbrook Brothers General Store was for many years a fixture in the village of Pitcairn at the heart of town on Broadway near Brinton Avenue.

    The Tilbrook’s were active in the Crossroads Presbyterian Church, often serving in various leadership roles. The family’s contribution to Patton Township’s history is recognized in the north-south road that bears the family name.  Like the family, “Tilbrook Road,” spans both the communities of modern Monroeville and Pitcairn.

     

    Sources:

    History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1889) Chicago: A. Warner & Company.

    Pitcairn, Pa, 1894-1969: 75th Anniversary Souvenir Book.

    The Genealogical and Personal History of Western Pennsylvania.. J. W. Jordan (Ed).

    Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in the war for the suppression of the rebellion, 1861-1861. Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. ( Ed.) Samuel M. Evans.


  7. Naser (1830)

    The Naser Family

    The Nasers were one of the well-known farming families in the Turtle Creek Valley for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. In time there would be three Naser farms in southern Patton Township, and straddling the Turtle Creek in Wall, Pennsylvania. 

     Johnann (aka John) Naser (1823-1905), his wife Christina (1823-1864) immigrated from Wuerttemberg Germany probably in the mid-1800s, and bought a farm near Route 48 in what is today’s Pitcairn. The couple were to have nine children including sons John (1858-?) and Frederick (1862-c.1880).  His wife Christina passed away in 1864, and Johnann re-married (to Sophia).  From his second marriage Johann would have five children at the Patton Township farm, including William (b.1869) and Louis Charles (b. 1874). By the mid 1800s Naser’s farm was one of five farms in southern Patton Township that would eventually become the Borough of Pitcairn.  John, Sophia, and some of their children are buried in the Grandview Cemetery in North Versailles, Pa.

     Phillip C. Naser who had immigrated from Germany in 1880 and begun a dairy farming business, had become a familiar sight driving teams of horses as he made his milk deliveries in the North Versailles and McKeesport Areas.    His cousin William Naser (1859-1920) arrived from St. Louis in the late 1880, married Jennie Schmidt (1871-1954) of Port Perry.  The couple bought a log cabin near Wall, Pa., and William began working for his cousin Phillip.

     In 1894 William moved his family to the Wallace farm (William named it “Pickup Farm”) on lower Mosside Boulevard. The farm house, the Wallace-Naser House was built in the early 1800s and remained one of the oldest 19th century stone farmhouses in Patton Township until it was razed sometime in the 1970s.    There William was to establish his own retail dairy which sold milk to the residents of Wall and Wilmerding.  The Naser family sold their dairy business in 1928.

     William P. Naser (1855-1901) of Patton Township and a resident of Wall’s Station, married Sarah Agnes Graham (1871-1954), and the couple had three boys: Elmer George, Edgar Milo, and William Charles.  William and Agnes are buried in Monroeville’s Crossroads Cemetery.

     In more recent times, Mary Louise Naser went on after graduating from high school to attend Grove City College, and then to do graduate work at the Pennsylvania State College and the Carnegie Institute of Technology.  By 1944 she was teaching History and English on the faculty of the Pitcairn High School, and served as the school’s librarian.

     Throughout the generations, several branches of Nasers were to contribute to the development of the communities of Pitcairn, Wall, Wilmerding, and the Turtle Creek Valley.

    ______________________________________________

    Sources:

    Pitcairn, Pa.: 50th Anniversary (1894-1944) Souvenir Book.

    Sokol, J. L., North Versailles 100th Anniversary(1869-1969).

    Naser, J.& T., Interview, March 20, 2010, Monroeville Historical Society


  8. McGinnis (1835)

    Descendants of John McGinnis (1798-1847). 

    The McGinnis family came from Ireland and originally settled in Baltimore, where John McGinnis was born in 1798. In time the family moved to the Pittsburgh area where John was to become a farmer and eventually a successful tobacco merchant.  In 1835 he bought some 300 acres of farm land east of Pittsburgh in the Turtle Creek Valley, and later married Eleanor Ramsey (1807-1890).   In 1841 he began selling lots at the crossroads of Tilbrook and the Great State Road (today’s Route 130); a place he was to (modestly) name: “McGinnisville.” By 1844 the McGinnises were one of a small handful of families (including the Barrs, Nasers, Glews, and Walls) that resided within the borders of present-day Pitcairn

    Many of the McGinnis children went on to make their own contributions to the developing community. His son, John C. McGinnis (1833-1917), would become a prominent businessman, lawyer, and borough solicitor; John’s brother, William Ramsey McGinnis (1833- 1874)  became a successful famer and trader who would own several farms including one near Stewarts Station.  In 1850, in what would become a prophetic event, John McGinnis sold a tract of land as a right-of-way to The Pennsylvania Railroad

    The McGinnis homestead at 318 Wall Avenue, built by John C. McGinnis in 1899, became  a well-known local landmark.  With the advent of television in 1952, a cable was installed from an antenna on a hill overlooking the town to the McGinnis house which was then opened to the public so they might witness the miracle of improved television reception.

     John C. McGinnis was one of the first trustees of  the local Presbyterian Congregation;  and when, in 1893, the family donated the land for a new town church it was christened the McGinnis Presbyterian Church after Eleanor McGinnis a devout Presbyterian.  Pitcairn’s McGinnis Avenue also bears the name of the man who may well be named the town’s “Founding Father.”

    _______________________________________________________________

    Sources:

    History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1889) Chicago: A. Warner & Company.

    Pitcairn, Pa.: 75th Anniversary (1894-1969) Souvenir Book.


  9. Brinton (1835)

    The Brinton Families

    There were two Brinton families that were prominent in the early days of Patton Township (particularly in Pitcairn, Wall and Trafford): those of George Matlick Brinton, and those of John Brinton.

    ***

     Sometime in the 1830s George Matlick Brinton (d. 1892) purchased 380 acres of the Cavett farm of what was then Plum township, just north of the Turtle Creek. The original Brinton homestead, built in 1830, became a local landmark and eventually was to become a temporary school in southern Patton Township.

     When the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) began laying tracks along the Turtle Creek valley they bought land from the Brintons and kept the family name for  the local RR station, located in what would be today’s Wall, Pennsylvania.  In December 1851, the PRR ran its first local train on a run from Pittsburgh to Brinton.

     George and his wife, Suzanne, had 10 children, and one of his sons, George M Brinton II, continued the family’s farming tradition at his place at the southern end of Ramsey Road. In 1901 the farms buildings were demolished in a tornado, and the family moved to a farm near Harrison City.

    ***

    Sometime in the 1850s, John Brinton, a farmer from Chester Country in eastern Pennsylvania, moved to Patton Township.  John was to become an influential figure in the community, one who held a number of township offices, and served in the War of 1812.

    One of his sons, Stephen Marshall Brinton (d. 1883) and his wife Mary McGrew Brinton, continued the framing tradition. At times the Brintons had several farms in southern Patton Township, along Tilbrook road, particularly in and near today’s Pitcairn. 

    Stephen and Mary Brinton went on to have a number of children including Samuel McGrew Brinton {b. 1848} who was educated at the public schools of Patton Township, Millersville State Normal School in Lancaster County, and Duff’s Business College in Pittsburgh, graduating from the latter in 1869. In 1883 he married Helen M. Collins (d. 1895), and after her untimely death he married again, this time to Cydonia Chadwick.  The couple lived for many years at the Brinton homestead and they belonged to the local Presbyterian Church in Pitcairn. 

    ___________________________________________

    Sources:

    Pitcairn, Pa.: 75th Anniversary (1894-1969) Souvenir Book.

    Trafford, Pa: 75th Anniversary (1904-1979), Souvenir Book.

    Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Personal and Genealogical, Vol. 2.  Publication Info: Madison, Wis., Northwestern Historical Association, 1904.


  10. Glew (1838)

    Descendants of John Glew (1811-1883).

     John and Ann Glew came to Philadelphia from Derbyshire, England in 1833 and by 1838 the family had settled in Patton Township near Moss Side.

    John and his wife, Ann Hough Glew, had eight children (Thomas, Sarah, Martha, Elizabeth, John, Anna, Jonathon, and William).  By trade he was a nailmaker and general blacksmith; his shop at the village (that would become Pitcairn) soon became a local landmark.

    In time the shop was passed on to this eldest son, Thomas {1837-1918} who kept up the family business.   According to one early history of Pitcairn: “The old Glew blacksmith shop at the crossroads was for many years a place of exchange of community news, as the farmers came in to have their horses shod and their farm machinery repaired.”

    In 1862, John Glew joined the Union Army serving under Captain A. L. Pierson in the 155th Pa. Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Allen.  He saw action at the battle of Antietam, and was later discharged because of a disability incurred by exposure on the battlefield to return to his Patton Township home.  John, his wife, and several of their children are buried in Monroeville’s Crossroads Cemetery.  His descendants have contributed to the growth and development of Pitcairn.

    ____________________________________________________________________

    Sources:

    History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (1889) Chicago: A. Warner & Company.

    Pitcairn, Pa, 1894-1969: 75th Anniversary Souvenir Book.


  11. Toohill (1840)

    Descendants of Lawrence Toohill (1810-?)

    Lawrence Toohill was born in Ireland; his family immigrated to America early in the 19th century; by 1850 he and his wife Mary were living on their farm near the McGinnis farm in southern in Patton Township.

    The Toohills were to have numerous children who, across several generations, were to become farmers, railroad workers, and prominent residents of the emerging Borough of Pitcairn. Over the years the Toohills have served the community in many ways, as was the case of  Dr.  John Tohill who served on the Pitcairn Board of Education.

    For a time, the family owned a Newspaper Store at Wall Avenue and Broadway, and later a clothing store on Broadway.  The family home on Wall Avenue, which they called “the Mansion,” became a well-known landmark in Pitcairn.

    The Toohills were Irish Catholics and in the 1890s, when the local Catholic community wanted to build a new church, it was one of the sons of Lawrence Toohill, Michael (b.1837), who donated the land on Wall Avenue. The church was built in 1895, and a grateful congregation named it St. Michael Roman Catholic Church in tribute to the donor.

    The Toolhills were to continue to be strong supporters of their parish church, The first pastor, Father Hugh C. Boyle, (later to become Bishop of Pittsburgh) recalled hitching his horse and buggy at the corner of Broadway and Wall Avenue and making his way through the muddy roads for Sunday breakfast the Toohill residence.  

     For many years, the organist for St. Michael was Blanche Toohill, who became a well-known concert pianist in her own right.

     ______________________________________________________

    Sources:

    Pitcairn, Pa, 1894-1944: 50th Anniversary Souvenir Book.

    Interview with Kevin Tohill, April 2010


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