It was 1788. In January, Georgia had ratified the U.S. Constitution and became just the fourth U.S. state under the new government. By the end of the year, there will be 11 states formally in the new government. The steamboat is patented by Briggs & Longstreet. The first permanent America settlement outside the original thirteen colonies is established in modern-day Marietta, Ohio.
Although both Pennsylvania and Virginia had claimed the area at first, by 1780 the Mason-Dixon line had been set and the area – then Westmoreland and Washington Counties – was settled as Pennsylvania's territory. Here in the area known today as Allegheny County, Indians still threatened travelers and residents alike and families living here had no luxuries or comforts, but only the necessities. There were no stores or centers of supply, and if something couldn't be grown or caught, it needed to be procured from elsewhere. The Pennsylvania Assembly established the first Court in western Pennsylvania which convened in Bedford on April 16, 1771. In 1787, following an Indian attack on the town, the Court moved to Greensburg.
For residents of today's Allegheny County, the trek to appear before the Court was a hardship and so in 1788, a petition was presented to the Pennsylvania Assembly asking for the creation of a new county. The petition requested that the territory around the head of the Ohio be formed as a new county due to the increase of population and the difficult of having to travel so far in quest of justice. On September 24, 1788, an Act was passed creating Allegheny County and designated that all of the territory north and west of the Ohio and Allegheny rivers, with a large tract also east and south of those streams, was included in the new county. The county originally extended all the way north to the shores of Lake Erie and included most of northwestern Pennsylvania. By 1800, the county's current borders were set.
The first officer named for the county was the prothonotary, James Bryson, who was elected the day after the erection of the County. On September 29, Samuel Jones was commissioned the first register for the probate of wills and granting letters of administration and recording of deeds. He was at the same time appointed and commissioned a justice of the court of common pleas.
The division of the county into townships for the better governing of the increasing population was a priority and one of the first actions of the Court. On December 18, 1788, the Court (consisting of George Wallace, President Judge, and Joseph Scott, John Johnston and John Williams, Justices) divided the county into seven townships: Moon, St. Clair, Mifflin, Elizabeth, Versailles, Plumb and Pitt.
John Griffin was named collector of excise for Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, but due to an outcry surrounding taxation that led to the whisky insurrection, he declined to serve. Robert Hunter was appointed instead on September 16, 1789. James Morrison was appointed sheriff and David Watson was appointed coroner, both on October 30, 1789.
Today's Allegheny County contains 130 municipalities, each governing itself. On January 1, 2000, a newly formed home rule government began which includes an elected County Executive, an elected 15-member County Council and an appointed County Manager. A few years later, the voters elected to eliminate several row office positions and to transfer their responsibilities to appointed officials within the Executive branch of government. Today, only an elected Controller, District Attorney, Sheriff and Treasurer remain.
As Allegheny County celebrates its 225th birthday, we will be sharing our history with you as well as our present and future. Please check back often as we post histories, photos, and information on events to celebrate our birthday year. You can also follow us via social media: