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Lewis & Clark: 1803 -- It happened in Pittsburgh

Sunday, July 20, 2003

-- Patricia Lowry, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In January, Robert Steele, later a Presbyterian minister, opened a private school (there were no public schools) in his house on Second Street (now Boulevard of the Allies), charging $4 per quarter for Latin and Greek.

On Jan. 16, the Dean, a brig built near Pittsburgh somewhere on the Allegheny River, sailed for Natchez, Miss., and Liverpool, England, taking on a cargo of cotton on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Cumberland River at Smithland, Ky.

James O'Hara and Isaac Craig offered a $100 reward in the Gazette to "the first discoverer of a bed or bank of clay fit to answer the purposes of making melting pots for the Pittsburgh Glass Works, within 100 miles."

In February, tickets were available at Gazette publisher John Scull's print shop for the comic opera "The Poor Soldier" and "The Apprentice," a farce.

Gaspard Arnold announced he would open an "Evening School for the purpose of teaching the French Language" on March 1, if 18 scholars could be found.

In March, "Several Mississippi flat-bottomed boats ... built in the best manner with Chimnies and Pumps compleat," were advertised for sale in the Gazette in the boatyard of Tarascon Brothers, James Berthoud & Co. (near the north end of the Liberty Bridge today).

William Irwin put a notice in the Gazette, once again inviting "The Hibernians of Pittsburgh" to "a dinner and suitable entertainment" at his three-story brick tavern in the Diamond (Market Square) on March 17, "for all who please to meet there to celebrate St. Patrick's Day."

In April, John Sumrall and Joseph McCullough moved from McKeesport and opened a boatyard at the Point.

On April 15, Unitarian minister Thaddeus Harris of Massachusetts arrived in Pittsburgh and made many observations in his journal, including this one: "The inhabitants use the water of the river here and down the Ohio for drinking and cookery, even in preference to the spring water from the hills ... they assured us that the river water was more wholesome and generally much more palatable ... the spring water, issuing through fissures in the hills, which are only masses of coal, is so impregnated with bituminous and sulphurous particles as to be frequently nauseous to the taste and prejudicial to the health."

In July, high constable William Cecil complained that many people were obstructing his enforcement of ordinances, especially the one prohibiting horses from running at large. To protest his hard line, they threw stones at his windows. Cecil, it must be said, also had a personal interest in seeing horses tethered: He made and sold saddles and bridles.

In November, burgess Pressley Neville called a town meeting to establish a night watch to thwart and prevent further losses to the "gang of thieves, who at present infest our town."

And sometime in 1803, James and Martha Boggs Robinson, who ran a riverfront inn and ferry on the Allegheny at Franklin Road (now Federal Street), built the first brick house in Alleghenytown (now the North Side). Their son William, who was born there, became the first mayor of Allegheny City.

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