History of Upper St. Clair
The area known as "Upper St. Clair" can trace its origins in recorded history to the mid-eighteenth century when the first known settler, a Scotsman named John Fife, arrived from Virginia in 1762. At that time the land was a part of Yohogania County District of West Augusta, Virginia, which was also claimed by the Penns as part of Pennsylvania. This dispute was finally settled in 1784, with the area now known as "Upper St. Clair" being placed in Peters Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania. In 1788 Allegheny County was formed from parts of Washington and Westmoreland Counties and was divided into seven townships, one of which was called St. Clair. At that time, the Township included the present Scott Township, Mt. Lebanon, South Park, Bridgeville, Castle Shannon, Crafton, Dormont , Greentree, Ingram, part of Carnegie, and nine wards of the City of Pittsburgh. Later, the township was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower St. Clair. Lower St. Clair is now fully within the Pittsburgh City limits. Two more townships were formed from the original township, Snowden in 1845 and Scott in 1861. The Borough of Bridgeville was separated in 1902.
The Township of St. Clair was named in honor of General Arthur St. Clair, a controversial figure of the 18th century, who came from Scotland in 1755 and settled in the Ligonier Valley. During the Revolutionary War, he rose from Colonel to Major General and was the only Pennsylvanian to become a Major General in the Continental Army. For a time, he commanded Fort Ticonderoga before losing it to the British, for which he was later court-martialed. At the close of the war, he entered the Continental Congress and was its President in 1787. His last days were spent in poverty and obscurity.
The original patentees, or landholders, in what is now Upper St. Clair numbered 35 or 40. Farms ranged in size from 175 to 450 acres. Usually, there was one log cabin on each tract, so that neighbors were from half a mile to one mile apart. The communities that developed were Beadling, Clifton and Boyce.
The most famous incident of history occurring in this area was the Whiskey Insurrection of 1794. Rebellious farmers numbering perhaps 500, gathered at Couch's Fort on July 15, 1794, and ignoring the pleas of the Rev. John Clark of Bethel Church that they return to their homes, instead marched along Fort Couch Road to Neville Farm to protest Federal taxes on whiskey. George Washington's Federal troops put down the rebellion in one of the first tests of the power of the new Federal government.
During the Civil War, Township residents formed a company of volunteers called the St. Clair Guards. The company was mustered into Federal service as Company "H", 62nd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers, and served with honor throughout the war.
Higbee School, a one room log cabin, was the first known school in the area and was located on the northeast border of present Upper St. Clair in the late 1700's. It was the first school west of the Alleghenies.
In the horse and buggy days, the village of Clifton--known for a time as Sodom--prospered, primarily because it was about one day's haul, over muddy Washington Road from downtown Pittsburgh to McLaughlin Run Road.
By 1844 there was mail delivery to Upper St. Clair P.O every Saturday at Squire Espy's Store. The mail carrier rode horseback carrying the mail in his saddlebags.
Around 1904 the first telephone line was run from Bridgeville to the general store at Clifton.
The first road to be paved in Upper St. Clair was Washington Rd. in 1898 and the first car owned locally appeared about 1909. An Esso gas station at Clifton was the first in the area and sold gas for 16 cents a gallon.
Brookside Farms was the first Real Estate Development in 1913 when the trolley began to run from Pittsburgh, and a rural farm community was transformed into a suburban residential area. Upper St. Clair's most rapid growth came during the 1950's and '60's. In 1954, the Township was designated a First Class Township, and in 1976 it officially became a Home Rule Community.
Visit the Upper St. Clair Library for additional information on the history of the area and the families, homes, social life, and government.
1830 Log House
1830 Log House
The 1830 Log House that stands on McLaughlin Run Road across from the Township Municipal Building is probably the most familiar of our community's landmarks. But many of us know nothing of the Log House, or its story or its place in our local history.
No one would claim that the Log House is of great historical significance, nor is it a grand architectural monument. It is, however, a real and direct link to our community's past - a glimpse into the way working men and women lived in this area more than a century and a half ago. Members of the 1830 Log House Association see it as a teaching classroom and a way to see what life was like in the 1830's when our forefathers were settling in Upper St. Clair.
One of the better known of these forefathers was Alexander Gilfillan, who settled here in the late 1760's and whose descendants are enjoying life in Upper St. Clair over 200 years later. He and his family built a house and lived on what is now St. Clair Country Club. They owned, in total, 413 acres. Sometime around 1830, Alexander or his son, John, built four or five log houses as housing for hired men and their families. Just one of these survives - the 1830 Log House on its original site in the heart of Upper St. Clair.
The Log House probably remained in the Gilfillan Family until 1899. From then until 1917, it changed hands a number of times and was home to a blacksmith's assistant, a rector's daughter, and an employee of the Brookside Farms development, which was just breaking ground in 1913.
In 1923, the Log House was purchased by James E. and Emily Fulton who used it as a summer home. Mr. Fulton was a founder and charter member of St. Clair Country Club in 1916 and he reportedly enjoyed coming home from work to play nine holes of golf before dinner. In 1939, the Log House was deeded to the Fulton's son, James Grove Fulton. He served as the U. S. Congressman from the 27th District of Pennsylvania from 1945 until his death in 1971, at which time he was serving his 14th consecutive term. Congressman Fulton was a bachelor, a collector of art and antiques and an accomplished and popular host. A number of colorful and cultured, if not slightly eccentric, people visited and at times lived in the Log House during his ownership. His estate sold the Log House to the Township in 1972.
Today a visitor to the Log House will find a well tended perennial bed of herbs, such as calendula and yarrow, which were commonly grown in the past. Well worn stone steps lead beyond a wooden door to the one room, dominated by a stone hearth, that comprises the downstairs. Narrow, curved steps lead to the one room upstairs.
The original purpose of the 1830 Log House Association was to restore and protect the structure. Restoration, for the time being is complete, and the Association's vision of the Log House as a teaching classroom is fulfilled by the Upper St. Clair students, Girl Scouts, women's clubs and other groups that tour the house.
This short history of the 1830 Log House is taken from an article written by Nancy Brown and Harla Brown, which appeared in the first issue of the Upper St. Clair Today Magazine, September 1994.