Here’s a Monongahela (Mon) River secret: I believe that one of the most “Pittsburgh” things about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania isn’t actually within Pittsburgh’s city limits.
By this, I mean the stretch of the river about ten or so miles upstream from where the Mon meets the Allegheny to form the Ohio River in downtown Pittsburgh. By this, I mean the communities of Braddock and North Braddock, PA. The Mon flows south to north here.
Here are my reasons:
1.) Every Pittsburgh “origin story” includes the Battle of the Monongahela during the French and Indian War. In 1755, the French and their indigenous allies ambushed British General Edward Braddock’s army and his indigenous allies at Braddock’s Field (this land is now present-day Braddock and North Braddock, PA). A young George Washington served as an aide-de-camp to General Braddock. Braddock died from his wounds during the retreat. Washington lead the retreat and he oversaw Braddock’s burial.
Any internet search on “Braddock’s Defeat” and “folklore” will overwhelm you. For fun, throw in these search terms: “Simon Girty,” or else, “missing gold.” One legend even claims that divine intervention saved Washington from death. Another alleges that one of Braddock’s own soldiers (intentionally) shot him.
2.) In 1794, rebels of the Whiskey Rebellion gathered in this very same Braddock’s Field before they marched into Pittsburgh to protest the U.S. government excise tax on whiskey. President Washington sent federal troops to put down the insurrection. In the fiction novel The King’s Orchard by Agnes Sligh Turnbull, angry frontiersmen threatened to burn down the houses of Pittsburgh’s leaders during this rebellion.
(My own hometown in Somerset County, PA later celebrated the Whiskey Rebellion with a festival out of memory for rebellion leader Robert Philson. Another rebellion leader, “Whiskey Dave” Bradford, fled to Louisiana and established the famously “haunted” Myrtles Plantation.)
3.) Braddock’s Field sits very close to the present-day Edgar Thomson Steel Works.
In 1872, Andrew Carnegie and his business associates built this steel mill. They named the plant after J. Edgar Thomson, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. They equipped the plant for the Bessemer process.
U.S. Steel owns this working steel mill today.
I found one travel blog in which the writer (a military history enthusiast) visited the Braddock community and attempted to retrace the Battle of the Monongahela. The blogger recounted the battle (in great detail) and provided maps. The blogger complained that later “progress” corrupted this land to the extent that he couldn’t actually view the battlefield in its pristine state from 1755.
The blogger’s complaint stuck with me. Just think about the tragedies and injustices (including labor disputes and the Johnstown Flood) that some blame on Pittsburgh’s Industrial Revolution leaders. If the blogger wants to complain about Andrew Carnegie and his business associates, he needs to take a number!
What do you consider to be the most “Pittsburgh” places in Pittsburgh?
This was my Part 3 of my Secrets of the Mon.