The Early Years of New Kensington, Pennsylvania


By Mrs. Luella Rodgers Frazier

Written by Luella R. Frazier  1966 
(Luella R. Frazier Born in Pittsburgh - 04-SEP-1907   Died - 01-JUL-1977 from a heart seizure)
Luella lived in New Kensington from 1941 to 1977



History records that in 1669-70 Robert Chevalier DeLaSalle and his voyagers came 
gliding down the Allegheny on a journey which he believed might lead him to China.  
The explorer was but 26 years old.  One wonders what he might have said to his 
aids as the expedition passed the stone wall which is now New Kensington.  Surely 
he must have asked some question about the great wide valley of Pucketos Creek.  
Perhaps the party may have encamped here and made minor explorations. 
 
Certainly the are was in that day totally uninhabited by the white man.  It was 
the Indian's hunting ground -- forest primeval.  Woodlands full of wild animals, 
streams full of fish. 
 
Before the formation of Westmoreland County, all the vast regions of this 
continent were, according to the system of the English Government, the property of 
the English King, to do with as he pleased.  To satisfy a debt oweing from the 
Crown to Admiral William Penn, a donation of the tract now commonly known as 
Pennsylvania was granted to William Penn, son and heir to the creditor, a Quaker 
in religion, and a favorite in the Court of Charles II. 
 
Governor Penn proposed to purchase, from the Indians, all of their titles to the 
occupancy of the land.  By treaty with the Five Nations, in 1736, all land within 
the boundaries of Penn's territories were claimed to have been purchased.  This 
treaty was supplanted by another made in Albany in 1754, when the Indians of the 
Five Nations (later six) conveyed to the Penn's, all the "lands westward to the 
setting of the sun".  The Five Nations were the tribes of the Mohawks, the 
Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Onondagas and the Senecas (later they admitted the 
Tuscaroras to their Nations).  With the influence of the French, the Indians 
claimed that they did not understand the limits of the purchase, and that the 
lands were conveyed which did not belong to the tribes making the conveyance, 
giving rise to further disputes.  Despite these disagreements, the colony grew and 
flourished for more than 60 years under wise policies instituted by Penn, and 
carried out by his successors.  But as yet all settlements were confined to the 
east of the Susquehanna, and the Indians still held northwestern Pennsylvania. 
 
Through many causes the Indians who claimed these western parts were, before the 
middle of the century (1750) confined to their reservation on the Ohio River, a 
name which embraced the river we now call "Allegheny". 
 
The French used their influence to represent themselves as the only true friends 
of the Indians.  This caused much enmity between the tribes for the advantage of 
the French King and the harassment of the white settlers. 
 
During the Revolutionary War the Penn's sided with the Crown and against the 
colonies.  On the 28th of June, 1779, the Divesting Act was passed by the 
Continental Congress, and by this Act, all Tories were stripped of their land 
titles and the titles were vested in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  
Accordingly, all titles to proprietorial lands within these bounds are traceable 
to the State, and are not of an earlier date the year 1779. 
 
Cumberland County was erected in 1750, and from it Bedford County was constituted 
March 9, 1771.  With the opening of the land offices, the flood gates were open 
for the invasion of the white race into the wilderness and the woods of Western 
Pennsylvania.  The land was priced at 5 pounds sterling per 100 acres and one 
penny quit-rent per annum.  The settlers were mostly second generation Scotch-
Irish and Germans.  They settled along the rivers, feeling that this land would 
quickly grow in value.  With this growth came the settlement of Westmoreland 
County, named for a town in England which was similar to our County in topography. 
Westmoreland was legislatively established on the 6th of February, 1773. 
 
Westmoreland County began its civil existence as the eleventh of the original 
provincial counties and was the last one erected under the hereditary 
proprietaries and under the reigh of the English Law. The territory included in 
Westmoreland embraced all the southwestern part of Pennsylvania. The authorities 
did not feel safe in taking in any territory west of Fort Pitt on the Ohio River, 
nor did they feel safe about the western boundary, for the Mason and Dixon line 
had not been completed farther west than the western part of Maryland.  Virginia 
claimed all territory in Pennsylvania west of the mountains. It was Penn's hope to 
assert their claims as against those of Virginia. 
 
Arthur St. Clair was the Penn's representative in this western area.  He 
vigilantly watched their interests here.  He saw the need for a county west of the 
Allegheny Mountains and petitioned that Bedford was too remote to spread and civil 
government over this section.  An element of trappers and hunters had moved into 
these parts who flaunted what laws there were. 
 
St. Clair was appointed prothonotary and clerk of the courts of the new County.  
His education, military service and prominence, made him the most distinguished 
man of the west at this time. Though he had been educated in England and was an 
English Army Office, there was not the least danger of his becoming a Tory. On the 
contrary, he had the most radical views on the impending difficulty between Great 
Britain and the Colonies.  His espousal of the American cause was one of the most 
independent and significant acts of his eventful life.  At the outbreak of the 
Revolutionary War St. Clair was a Colonel in the Continental Army.  He could well 
be called "Father of Westmoreland." 
 
St. Clair had served in the Indians Wars and was very aware of the trouble these 
tribes visited on the settlers of Westmoreland County. He made the Commandant at 
Fort Pitt aware of these maraudings and steps were taken to give aid to the 
valley. 
 
Many forts were erected. Fort Hand was erected on a farm in the present Washington 
Township, one mile north of North Washington.  General Hand, who commanded Fort 
Pitt, strengthened and rebuilt it, and it took his name.  The General took most of 
his men on an expedition and it was reported at Fort Pitt that there was "not a 
man on our frontiers from Ligonier to the Allegheny River, except a few at Fort 
Hand, on Continental pay". It was then ordered that one Hundred and twenty men "be 
placed at such stations as would best be calculated for the defense of the 
County". 
 
Colonel William Crawford built Fort Crawford a short distance above the mouth of 
the Puckety Creek.  The purpose of the Fort, as given "was to cover the Indian 
trail and the Fort, to patrol the river from below the second bend and above to 
Fort Armstrong, below what is now Kittanning, also to scout the Pucketos Creek 
Valley." The Fort served as a retreat for the settlers; when necessary it was a 
rallying point for the scouts who patrolled the region when the Indians were 
about, and was a protection to the troops who garrisoned it.  Fort Crawford was a 
stockade fort and may have covered about two acres.  An early resident said he 
could find part of the parapet of the Fort in 1856.  The Fort was not very 
substantial and proved hard to maintain, however it was used, more or less 
regularly, for about sixteen years. 
 
Fort Crawford was used by the settlement of some fifty persons as a refuge during 
Indian attacks, a storehouse for munitions and supplies, and to house soldiers.  
Because of the river freezing over in the winter, it was difficult to get supplies 
to the base during cold weather.  The few settlers were able to raise only enough 
food for their own use.  As a result the soldiers abandoned the Fort during the 
winter months returning again in the spring.  The Indians seemed content to hug 
their own camp fires during the winter and rarely made any attacks in the 
settlements.  The Fort was abandoned in 1793, but the Indians did not cease their 
harassment's until 1810. 
 
A portion of the Manse grounds of the Parnassus Presbyterian Church was once an 
Indian burial mound.  Several times graves have been opened, Indian artifacts 
found, the bones of the savages examined.  In 1942 the Massy Harbison Chapter, 
NSDAR, erected a large boulder to commemorate the historic site of Fort Crawford. 
A bronze plaque upon it has a fitting inscription. 
 
In no part of the county were Indian names more common, nor the remains of Indians 
more easily found than in this section of Western Pennsylvania.  Rivers, Creeks, 
towns, Indian lookouts, and grave yards were given Indian names. 
 
The area that is Westmoreland County had been open only six years for settlement 
when the Revolutionary War began.  It had been erected as a County less than three 
years before the war was started.  The county was almost entirely a community of 
farmers and struggling pioneers, with two small towns, Hannastown and Pittsburgh 
(Fort Pitt) neither with a population of over three hundred.  Westmoreland had the 
proud distinction, as records show, of furnishing more men for the various 
branches of the revolutionary army than the entire city of Philadelphia. 
 
While most if the men were serving with the Continental Army, the Indians opened 
bloody attack against the unprotected frontier.  The Indians joined with the 
British against the settlers because of the alluring rewards offered by the 
English Officers for scalps.  It was easy for the Indians to join the British - 
they both regarded the settler as an intruder.  Assisting and often directing 
activities in the attack against the settlers were the White Tories, who were 
cruel and merciless to the point of being inhuman. 
 
Indians, who had annoyed the settlers around Fort Pitt during 1778 and 1779 came 
from Ohio, or from the headwaters of the Allegheny River.  The Senecas of the 
upper Allegheny were the strongest of the Six Nations, their men were sagacious, 
courageous and cruel.  Their chief leaders at this period were Cornplanter and 
Guyasuta.  The Seneca wigwams in the Allegheny valley exhibited hundreds of scalps 
as trophies of their incursions into Western Pennsylvania. 
 
History records stories of brave men and women who escaped from the red marauders, 
hiding their families and themselves.  The plight of Massy Harbison and her family 
is history of the times in our valley.  It is told, and retold, of her bravery and 
daring, her hardships were almost unbearable. She lived through them and finished 
her life span in the valley of her horrors. 
 
The first settlers of this region were from Virginia and from the Cumberland 
Valley of Eastern Pennsylvania.  Their path of migration closely followed out 
Pennsylvania Turnpike, with a difference - the settlers went over the mountains 
not through them.  This trek led through a trackless wilderness.  It was made on 
foot, or on horseback if they were affluent enough to own a horse.  They drove 
livestock before them, with the children riding awhile and then walking a great 
part of the way.  They brought with them such tools and implements as they could 
carry - that were most essential for the establishment of their home.  Often the 
father would come out to this place and live for a year or two to see whether his 
family would be likely to survive if they settled in this valley.  Their cabins 
were made of hand hewn logs, and their furniture was still growing in the forest. 
 
In April, 1769, John Little paid, to the Government of Pennsylvania, the sum of 
$181.76 for a parcel of land containing 300 acres, more or less.  He named the 
site "Parnassus" and this is the first time we find this name used in the 
Allegheny Valley.  Benjamin Armitage purchased the adjoining acreage which he 
called "Hermitage" and this became New Kensington.  Three hundred acres adjacent 
to "Hermitage" were purchased by Robert Mc Crea and this was later Arnold.  These 
three parcels of land comprised the present area from Logan's Ferry north to 
Valley Camp. 
 
When Parnassus was given its name, the Revolutionary War had not been fought, so 
the patent for this land was not granted to John Little by the Commonwealth of 
Pennsylvania until July 20, 1781.  The patent description was "beginning at a 
Spanish White Oak opposite the Sewickley Old Town (Springdale), and bounded on the 
East by barren land etc.".  Pennsylvania, one of the original States of the 
American Union, came into existence subsequent to the application of the name 
"Parnassus" to the district.  Therefore, the name "Parnassus" antedates the 
Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the birth of the 
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 
 
This district was first part of Allegheny Township, which was organized in 1796, 
and received its name from the River that formed its northwest boundary.  The 
first officers were: Supervisors, Ezekiel Matthews, and John Leslie; Constable, 
Thomas Reed.  Among the early settlers of Allegheny Township were the Stewart 
family in 1790; the leechburgs in 1791; Watts (William and John) in 1801; Hills, 
Chochran, Hawks, before 1800; Butlers, Alters, Wilsons, Longas, McKees, Copelands, 
Armstrongs, Ashbaughs, ere 1828. 
 
Massy Harbison, at the time of her abduction by the Indians, lived in Allegheny 
Township at the headwaters of Chartiers Creek.  She and here husband were the 
first settlers in this district.  The township, from its peculiar position between 
the Allegheny and Kiskiminetas River, was especially subject to Indian outrages at 
a time when the remainder of the County was enjoying comparative security. 
 
Logans Inn was once an important stopping place for travelers during colonial 
days, and many famous men were among those entertained there, as they made their 
way through the farmlands of the frontier en route to Fort Pitt, Fort Venango, or 
other destinations. 
 
The Logan Family was closely associated with this district's early history. The 
family held the original charter from the English Government, deeding the land to 
John Little.  The second owner was John W. Woods, of Pittsburgh, and the third was 
Alexander Logan.  Alexander first settled in Springdale (Sewickly Old Town) and he 
had the first Post Office there.  He was an agent for eastern land owners at this 
time.  A log cabin was built for their home and Mrs. Logan told of many times 
preparing breakfast with several Indian braves sitting in her kitchen.  Sometimes 
these friendly braves became marauding savages, and the family had to flee to Fort 
Pitt for safety.  The Logans Ferry U.P. Church was built on part of the River Farm 
purchased from Alexander Logan. 
 
The story is told of the time that Aaron Burr stopped at Logan's Inn for several 
days just after his duel with Alexander Hamilton.  That was before newspapers and 
letters were infrequent luxuries.  Thus, the Logans did not know about the duel 
and did not recognize Mr. Burr.  At that time he was on his way to Blennerhasset 
Island to enlist Blennerhasset's assistance in the scheme to build a new empire in 
the southwest at the expense of Mexico. 
 
Charles Dickens was a visitor at Logan's Inn during one of his visits to the 
United States, and he mentions the old inn in his book "Our Mutual Friend".  The 
inn was located near the river at a spot where cable towers of the West Penn Power 
Co. have been erected. 
 
In the spring many rafts were tied to the landing near Logan's Inn, where the 
raftmen spent the night, before continuing their trip to Pittsburgh.  People that 
journeyed by canal boats often left the boat at Springdale and came over by the 
ferry to the Inn. 
 
Some of the Logan families inherited land in what is now Parnassus and they were 
among the founders of the Parnassus Presbyterian Church.  It is not known just the 
exact time the first church services were held in the village, it must have been 
about 1836/37.  The services were in a hall on Main Street.  The building of the 
Church was begun in 1840 and was built on land purchased from John W. Logan.  The 
Church was built along the edge of a cemetery then in use for several years and 
later enlarged to become the Church Cemetery.  One Revolutionary soldier, 
Alexander Logan, in interred there, along with his wife and some of his family.  
His grave bared a government marker. 
 
The original Parnassus church building was sixty by forty, with slab benches with 
the round side of the slab under, supported by legs of rough wood, one end 
smoothed and driven into auger holes in the round side of the slab.  It was not an 
uncommon thing, during the service, for children to go to sleep and fall off the 
seat.  It has also been left on record, that some older people did the same thing. 
 
There was no church in the village before this time, the question of denomination 
arose for the new congregation.  Mrs. Elizabeth Logan, wife of Hugh Logan, Sr. was 
of Episcopalian persuasion.  To have a church nearby was very important in here 
life.  She went by horseback and surveyed the people round about as to their 
preference in denomination.  When the majority preferred the Presbyterian 
services, she was loyal to the will of the majority and through the remainder of 
her life served faithfully in the Parnassus Presbyterian Church, and raised her 
family in the Church of her adoption. 
 
The condition of the schools in 1834, when the first free-school law was enacted, 
was extremely rustic.  The district were few in number and the houses built of 
logs and poorly seated, only rude slabs without a back support.  The discipline 
was often enforced by the free use of the birch, for moral suasion was not 
tolerated.  Female teachers were not employed prior to 1834, in fact the idea of a 
"girl" teaching school was a wonderful thing to think about.  The attendance was 
quite irregular, as many had a great distance to go.  Among the teachers were 
Samuel Owens, Luther Wills, George Crawford, Robert Jeffrey, Samuel McConnel and 
Wilson Sproull.  If any one desired to teach, he would first apply to a member of 
the school committee, and if he "looked fit to teach", he was then sent to some 
"very learned man" to be examined, who after a few scattered questions had been 
asked on the different branches taught, was pronounced duly qualified, and 
immediately entered upon his duties.  The wages ranged from ten to twenty dollars 
per month.  From 1845 to 1860, the following men were among the most prominent 
teachers: D. McKee; W.R. Trout; James Hawk; and others. 
 
Immediately after the close of the Revolutionary War, the people very generally 
turned their attention to the subject of internal improvements, and chiefly to the 
matter of transportation.  The opening of the canal along the Allegheny River to 
Pittsburgh was fifty years before the incorporation of Parnassus as a Borough (or 
about 1825).  Most of this area was then farmland.  The canal boats carried their 
produce to market, and carried passengers in comparative luxury.  The passenger 
boats, drawn by two horses, left the dock at six o' clock in the evening, and 
arrived in Pittsburgh at four in the morning for a fare of twelve and one-half 
cents including bunk, meals were served for the same price.  The first boats were 
from six to eight feet wide and approximately sixty feet long.  The could carry as 
many as seventy passengers in addition to the freight load.  Boats carrying farm 
produce from the district were drawn by three horses.  Early residents say that 
the location of what is now Barsky's Hotel, was once a canal stop, with the 
passengers fording the river.  
 
The first railway was built by the Pittsburgh (Kittanning) and Warren railroad 
Co., later Allegheny Valley R.R. Co.  As early as 1856 rail service was furnished 
as far north as Kittanning. 
 
Burrell Township was taken from Allegheny Township and organized in 1852.  The 
territory it included was New Kensington, Arnold, Upper Burrell Township and the 
City of Lower Burrell as we know them today.  It was named in honor of Judge J. 
Murry Burrell, who was President Judge of the Court when it was erected. 
 
Within Burrell Township there were several villages and railroad stations.  
McLaughlintown was in the southeast part of what is now Upper Burrell, and in a 
region early settled by the McLaughlins, Kunkles, Swanks, Wylies, McClintocks, 
Cockrans, Byerlys, Burrys, Hunters, and Borlins.  It had a store, post office and 
several shops.  Two miles northwest were Milligans' Mills. Going north from 
Parnassus, the first station on the Allegheny Valley R. R. was Arnold, near which 
was residence of Captain R. P. Crawford.  Here were located the salt-works and oil 
refinery of Porter, Crawford & Co.  Chartiers Station laid in the northwest part 
of the present Lower Burrell Township, and was an important shipping point.  Near 
it lived the old families of Leslies, Shearer, Goldinger, George, Miller, Read and 
others. 
 
Nearly all of the early settlers of Burrell Township were Scotch-Irish extraction.  
The Crooks family, located on the Pucketos Cree in 1791, and came from Antietam 
Creek.  William Ross was born in Ireland, and on his arrival in this country, 
first located in Franklin and Adams Counties, moved here in 1794.  John Ross 
followed in 1801, John died June 23, 1927, aged fifty-four years.  William Ross 
married Esther Reid of Greecastle April 19, 1803, and died at age eighty-seven 
years on August 28, 1849.  John Stewart settled in 1804 with his brother William, 
who died April 19, 1850 aged sixty-eight years.  John Bales settled here in 1805.  
These men were among the founders of the Puckety Presbyterian Church.  Among other 
early settlers were the McLaughlins, Millers, Hummels (David Hummel died May 23, 
1867, aged sixty-nine years) Connells, Hunter, Skillens, Blacks, Moores, Logans, 
Shearers, Leslies, Swanks, Milligans, Woolslayers, Rowans, Ludwigs, Dugans, 
Youngkins, Fredericks, Kunkles, McCutchens and Ashbaughs, among others. 
 
One of the first pioneers was James Johnston.  He was a Revolutionary soldier who 
had served with the distinction under the command of General Anthony Wayne.  He 
lived to be one hundred and three years old and was buried with full military 
honors in Dugans Graveyard on Greensburg Road. 
 
David Alter came to Pucketos Creek from Cumberland County.  His father was born in 
Switzerland and emigrated to America before the Revolution.  He married Elizabeth 
Mill, his sister married Governor Ritner.  His eldest daughter became the wife of 
Major George Dugan, and his eldest son, Joseph, was the father of Dr. David Alter.  
David Alter Jr. was born in 1775, he was a Captain in the War of 1812.  He was an 
inventor that was far ahead of his times and was little noted.  He built the 
"Alters Mills" on the Pucketos.  His son, Joseph, married Margaret C. Dinsmore of 
an early family. 
 
One of the first lands entered, or patented, was a five hundred acre tract to a 
man named Wharton, which was subsequently purchased by the McLaughlin family. 
 
When the Allegheny R. R. was completed in the winter of 1855-56, Parnassus Borough 
consisted on the Presbyterian Church, The farm residence of John W. Logan, a house 
of his tenant near the church, and the dwelling of Alexander Cook, erected during 
construction of the railroad.  John W. Logan laid out the town immediately after 
the completion of the railroad.  The first building erected was by A. B. Copeland 
for his store (the first here), the second by A. H. Wylie, and the third building 
was Mr. Copeland's residence (burned in 1868), the forth the "Eagle Hotel".  The 
post office was established in 1856 with John W. Logan as postmaster.  His 
successor was George L. Lee. 
 
The Borough of Parnassus was incorporated April 9, 1872.  A. B. Copeland, A. H. 
Wylie and W. R. Logan with Samuel Skillen were appointed by the Court to fix 
boundaries.  The first Burgess was John Fluke, the Councilmen were J. C. Stewart, 
W. J. Sproull, James H. Elder, S. Y. Cursan, A. H. Wylie, W. J. Wentz, W. R. 
Logan, Stephen Hughan, Clerk, D. S. Dewalt, Treasurer, J. C. McCutcheon; Street 
Commissioner William Bright, High Constable J. W. Neff. 
 
Round Hill Cemetery was located on ground commanding "a picturesque view of the 
Allegheny River", which was donated by the late Hugh Logan.  The first three 
internment's were Hugh Logan, b. Dec. 3, 1788, d. June 29, 1873; his wife, 
Elizabeth, b. April 24, 1798, d. Nov. 2, 1878.  Nancy Hultz, b. Nov. 17, 1802, d. 
Nov. 28, 1878. 
 
From its infancy, Parnassus was prosperous Borough.  This fact coupled with the 
natural resources of the formation of the Burrell Improvement Co. and to their 
securing the unimproved lands in and north of Parnassus to Valley Camp.  This 
property had been owned by three men, Capt. Crawford, Dr. Alexander Young, a 
professor at the Allegheny Theological Seminary, and Mr. Stephen Young, who lived 
his latter days on Freeport Road, once a part of his original farm. 
 
The Burrell Improvement Co. was a concern which had achieved phenomenal success in 
land dealings in the Pittsburgh are.  In February, 1891, Samuel E. Moore, 
President of the Company.  Mr. Moore was born in Pittsburgh and had the reputation 
of being the leading expert accountant in that City.  The Burrell Improvement Co. 
purchased, July, 1890, a large tract of land situated 18 miles from Pittsburgh, on 
the Allegheny Valley Railroad, and in June, 1891 laid out the town of Kensington.  
The Biographers of Mr. Moore projected that his foresight entitled him to be 
immortalized as the founder of the town which sprang into existence as if by 
magic. 
 
The Improvement Company offered free transportation from Pittsburgh for those who 
would come to view the site of the land sale.  About 15,000 people were attracted.  
The price scale of the first several hundred lots was from $30 to $300. Residents 
sold their cattle and raised money as best they could to "get in on the ground 
floor". That they were prudent is born out by the fact that many purchasers 
doubled their investments in less than a month.  The first lot sold was at the 
corner of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street.  The third lot sold was at the corner of 
Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue to D. A. Leslie, where he opened the first drug 
store. 
 
The sale continued for three days.  The first days sale realized $63,000, at the 
end of the third day the staggering amount of $135,000 had been paid for lots with 
corn growing on them, and only a plowed furrow marked the boundaries of each 
section and each lot.  Muslin signs were displayed bearing the names of proposed 
manufacturing plants, yet to be built.  The Kensington boom was literally without 
precedent in Pennsylvania, and it was all the more remarkable when the permanent 
results were noted. 
 
By 1892 five hundred houses had been built and all were crowded.  Judge Doty of 
the Westmoreland County Courts made the order to incorporate the Borough of New 
Kensington on November 28, 1892.  The territory included the present site of 
Arnold and New Kensington, including all the territory north of Parnassus Borough  
to Valley Camp, to be operated as one local municipality.  February 21, 1891, was 
the date fixed for the election of the first officers. 
 
Many problems arose in the beginning of the Community.  A very serious dispute 
arose after the first election.  Two political parties were in the field, the 
Citizens' Party and the Peoples' Party.  The election board returned the correct 
tally of the votes showing that the candidates of the Peoples' Party had been 
elected.  The Board then proceeded to issue certificates to the loosing 
candidates.  The case was brought before Judge Doty who sided with the Peoples' 
Party and issued a writ directing the election board to make a true return and in 
the face of their own return, to issue certificates to the minority candidates.  
The first Council Meeting was held on March 15, of the year 1893, in the office of 
Horace G. Durbin, Esq.  Dr. E. E. Patton was elected President of the Council at 
the meeting.  D. M. McCarty was the first Burgess but he soon resigned to become 
the first Postmaster. 
 
Various mergers were proposed with other municipalities, the first was in January, 
1895.  This was a wild scheme to make New Kensington part of Pittsburgh.  It was 
one of the first "Greater Pittsburgh" ideas.  It was not carried out because of 
the lack of enthusiasm involved with the scheme. 
 
At first, our Borough was called Kensington after Kensington, England, but the 
Post Office discovered that there was already a Kensington in Pennsylvania.  
Therefore, the prefix "New" was added.  The town grew overnight.  It might have 
been called a "boom town" originally, but that boom was backed by solid worth and 
the growth was of the substantial kind that is most valuable. 
 
From the first election held in 1891, there were political problems.  The Borough 
was divided into two wards, with the area now Arnold being the Second Ward.  In 
October, 1895, a movement was begun to incorporate the Second Ward as a second 
Borough.  Since the withdrawal seemed the only hope for peace, there was no 
opposition to the separation of the two communities.  The incorporation and 
separation was completed in January, 1896. 
 
In 1930, Valley Heights, Valley Camp and East Kensington area were annexed from 
Lower Burrell Township.  In 1931 Parnassus and New Kensington consolidated to 
function as one municipal government.  One of the local historians relates, that 
every train was obliged to stop at Arnold.  Under terms of the right-of-way, given 
to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the conductor of every train had to stop and 
register in a little shelterhouse erected near the old Arnold Station - regardless 
of the type of train.  When the Railroad abandoned the registration the right-of-
way was canceled.  The folks of Arnold always had the laugh on their New 
Kensington neighbors who came from Pittsburgh, or elsewhere, and had to alight in 
Arnold, for the reason that none of the fast trains stopped in New Kensington. 
 
The industry that sprang up in New Kensington was the major substance of the 
growth of the City.  In 1886, Charles Martin Hall perfected the process of 
securing pure aluminum from its oxide.  That discovery gave impetus to the 
development of New Kensington, and gave it the appellation of "The Aluminum City".  
The mother plant of the industry was established in 1891, but regretfully none of 
the original building are now standing. 
 
Some of the other industries that contributed to the expansion were the Excelsior 
Glass Works which manufactured lamp chimneys; there was the Sterling White Lead 
Company, Bradley Stove Works, Pennsylvania Tin Plate Company, Hunt Air Brake 
Works, Cold Rolled Steel Plant, and enameling works, a brewery, Glenn Drilling 
Company, Chambers Glass Works of Arnold, which became American St. Gobain among 
others. 
 
New Kensington is seventy five years old.  Only an infant in the passing of time.  
Her potential is ahead, her progress has just begun. 
 
ACKNOWLEDGMENT 
 
History is not just places and dates, history is people.  In writing this brief 
history of New Kensington I have consulted many people, papers and works. 
 
It would be a great service to our City if someone would write a comprehensive 
history of her past.  So much cultural good has come from out City that will soon 
be lost to antiquity - because no one has written in down.  Those who are most 
familiar wit these legends are growing older and time will take her tool - the 
story will be lost forever. 
 
I grateful acknowledge the time and material so freely shared with me in gathering 
this material. 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 
 
History of Westmoreland County - Alberts - 1882 
History of Westmoreland County - Boucher 
City of New Kensington - Civics Class of Ridge Ave. 
                         Junior High School 1961/2 
Souvenir History of Parnassus Presbyterian Church, 1842-1942 
Daily Dispatch                     Peoples Library 
 
Luella R. Frazier  1966 


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