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Life in Washington Co., PA "Little Washington" 
1700s to Present


Town-Talk about Towns in Washington County PA


Genealogy (often misspelled geneology) and family history research in the area of Little Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania from 1700 to present.

Nearest cities: Sturgeon-Noblestown, PA (1.9 miles ), Oakdale, PA (3.8 miles ), Midway, PA (4.1 miles ), Cecil-Bishop, PA (4.4 miles ), Imperial-Enlow, PA (5.7 miles ), Canonsburg, PA (8.2 miles ), Houston, PA (8.5 miles ), Bridgeville, PA (8.6 miles ).  Latitude: 40.37 N, Longitude: 80.23 W


McDonald PA's Commercial Hotel 1912

From Oct. 1912 McDonald Outlook Newspaper.


Ten miles outside of Canonsburg, over rolling low hills, lies the old borough of McDonald.  McDonald's namesake is John N. McDonald who bought land in that section in 1775.  Eventually Mr. McDonald owned 5-6,000 acres of land. Michael O'Ohara laid out the town plan in 1871. But it wasn't until about Nov. 11, 1889 that the borough was incorporated.  In that long period of time, the town saw many changes and eventually a massive boom in population and progress.


Oct. 30, 1914 
McDonald PA Record 

John James C. MCDONALD, aged about 75, grandson of the first settler of this section, died Tuesday afternoon, October 27th, at 3 o'clock in a sanitarium in Erie, where he had been for the last five years. He was one of the wealthiest men of this part of the county. Part of Mount Pleasant and Robinson townships were settled by his grandfather, and he and his brother, K. Noble MCDONALD, fell heirs to a large estate. His brother, K. Noble MCDONALD, survives. The body was brought to the family home at Primrose on Thursday. The funeral services will be held Saturday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock.

  A railroad station, called Havelock until 1869-70, was erected in 1865 by the Pittsburgh and Steubenville Railroad which later became the Panhandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The only buildings in town at the time was one residence, a gristmill and a blacksmith shop.  What a solitary place it must have been, except for the occasional train.  Then, like numerous other communities of this county, McDonald soon became a focal point mining the rich resource of coal.  Then, by the time the borough was incorporated, the oil boom was on in McDonald, as it was throughout Washington County during this period of time.  Oil riggers and derrick workers flocked to the town, as had coal miners from overseas.  Both industries were dangerous.  It was not unusual for local newspapers to carry stories of men losing limbs or their lives while tending the machinery involved with drilling above ground, and there were numerous unfortunate victims of mine accidents.  Safety measures were still very much lacking by the turn of the century, but the push was in the direction of safety and unionization.

Many people became rich in this area, especially from oil.  The town prospered.  Stately homes, an elegant business district, and modern services were quickly brought to the area, enriching the lives of the residents.  McDonald was known far and wide during the oil boom.


The Oil Field July 9, 1892
McDonald PA Outlook 

The Oil Field

McDonald through June maintained the lead she has so persistently held since coming into prominence as an oil district. Her daily production as revealed by the gauges and pipe lines runs has continued at very nearly constant figures, and it is still one of the most remarkable features of the times. In the month just closed there were 58 productive wells and five dry holes completed at McDonald. The new production was 4,966 barrels, or an average of 85 1/2 barrels to the well. The figures for May were almost identical, there having been 58 wells, 6 dusters, with a new production of 4,958 barrels and has no appreciable effect in the averages. The 64 new wells in April averaged a little more than 65 barrels each, while those of march were good for 118 barrels and those of February for 101 barrels apiece.

McDonald contributed about 56 per cent of the entire amount of new production for June, her 58 wells being credited with 4,966 of the 9,587 barrels of crude supplied by the new wells. The production of this wonderfield was over 63 percent, for May and April, and for March 82 percent.

In new work McDonald supplies 12 rigs and 81 wells drilling, a decrease of 18 from the figures at the close of May. There were in this field on the last day April 94 drilling wells and 23 rigs. On March 31, the field contained 29 rigs and 112 drilling wells, and on February 29, 32 rigs and 116 wells drilling. On May 31 the record showed 16 rigs and 95 drilling wells. After McDonald Sistersville ranks second in importance. It has developed several surprised during the past month and materially enlarged it prospective area. The wells are huge producers of salt water, but there is likewise a plentiful supply of the oleaginous fluid, and already a large number of oil men have been attracted to the region. Twenty-one wells were added to the producing list at Sistersville during the month just closed; the total yield of the new wells was 3,270 barrels, or an average of 156 barrels to the well. The may wells were 10 in number and the production 745 barrels. For !
the last day of June, Sistersville records 19 rigs and 33 drilling wells as compared with 10 rigs and 18 wells drilling on the last day of May.  - From the Oil City Derrick 

The area prospered for another 20 years, but the oil business was hard hit during WWI.

Oil Business
Aug. 14, 1914
McDonald PA Record

"The oil business has been hit harder by the European war than any other business in this country. The Standard Oil Companies have given out orders that because no oil can be exported the full production can no longer be run and purchased. In West Virginia only 25 percent will be purchased; in Ohio fifty percent. In this region not more than 100 barrels is being purchased from any one producer."

The town has also seen a share of natural disasters and calamities, as described in this article of 1928: 

  Robinson Run Valley Flood
  June 28, 1928
  McDonald PA Outlook

The heavy rains that last Thursday night did much damage to McDonald and the neighboring towns when the high waters washed through the business houses and homes, destroying much property and laying waste crops and gardens. Many people traveling between McDonald and Pittsburgh were kept from their destinations until after the flood subsided about four o'clock Friday morning. The flood rains were preceded by one of the most severe electric storms ever witnessed in the section.

The lower section of McDonald was badly washed. The stores of Hyman LEVINE and Joseph WEISSBERG probably suffered more than the several others into which the water swept. In the pressing establishment of Pete FEDEROFF, the water rose to within one foot of the ceiling, doing considerable damage to clothing and equipment. In the M. H. LEVISON shoe store, a little more than one inch of water covered the main floor, and the basements from the George W. SMITH building to WEISSBERG's hardware store were completely filled. Garages, homes and business places on Washington street were also flooded, and several families on McDonald, Barr, and Valley streets were driven from their homes. The water rose so rapidly in these places that many were trapped before they became aware that a flood was approaching. The fire department was drafted into service and a number of marooned citizens were rescued by the firemen who waded the high water and carried them to safety. Several foundations on North McDonald street were completely destroyed. The high water in McDonald began to recede about midnight. 

The entire business section of Oakdale was flooded to a depth of several feet, the main part of town and the public square being covered by several feet of water. The rapid waters of the north branch of Robinson's Run creek washed down foot bridges, brick porches, derrick wheels, telephone and telegraph poles, furniture, and other debris, which tended to hold back the water at the State street arch bridge. Move of the bigger things were caught for the moment, but the force of the water rushing through soon washed them under. In the main creek where the old Union avenue bridge formerly stood, a gas main caught much of the floating debris. It was feared for a time that the pipe would give way before the heavy weight of the gathering rubbish. Boxes and steel gasoline drums were among the things that thundered through the new bridge on this side. In the public square, many poles were being carried by the currents, threatening the windows and walls of the business houses. Several autos were severely damaged when caught in the waters and were unable to run free. 

The waters became alarming about nine-thirty, when a dept of almost three feet was in the square. Traffic was blocked and no one permitted to attempt a drive to the other side. Until about one o'clock the flood rose rapidly, then reaching its crest a few inches above the floor of the new Marshall filling station, which was the last place entered by the rising water. 

Little damage was done in the high stores, but in all the ones level with the street, hardly anything that could be damaged was saves. The stores were unable to operate until the next day, when new supplies of food and other necessities were rushed in. 

The Presbyterian and United Presbyterian church and the following business houses were entered by the water: J. S. MOORE Hardware, H. C. DODDS Drug store, Oakdale Auto Supply Co., Hadden Restaurant, Butler Chain store, Eagle Chain store, SMILNYEK building, KOSTYAK grocery store, BOCK & WATTERS garage, Lee COOK restaurant and dining room, HENNEMUTH grocery store, HUEY & MATHEWS store, A. & P. store, HOFFMAN department store, First National bank, EVANS Barber Shop, Oakdale Valet Shoppe, SCHWIMER meat market, Joseph VENALECK repair shop, Oakdale postoffice, Armstrong Cork company, and the MARSHALL filling station. A new foundation for the MOORE hardware building was badly damaged and completely filled with water. Homes along Marion avenue and Clinton avenue were badly flooded and left in a terrible condition when the water receded. Porches, fences, and gardens were completely destroyed. Stock and equipment of the business house were carried to the hills and saved. 

Lightening threatened homes and the firefighting equipment was paralyzed. The home of F. L. SHANE on Vincennes avenue was struck by the lightening, which tore off part of the slate roof and chimney, setting fire to the house. The flames, however, were quickly smothered by a deluge of rain.

The water reached its crest about one o'clock then quickly receded. A drop of two feet was made in the first hour, and soon traffic was resumed through about three feet of water still in the square. Cleaning up followed with an exhaustion of the water supply which lasted several hours. The water level reached has only been equaled by one flood many years ago, which rose to a higher level of two and one-half feet. 

In Noblestown homes and business places of the following persons were flooded:  Harry LAUDERBAUGH, Joseph SNEZAK, Alex PLUMERET, Leon DUCRAY, Mary MARTIN, Mary HENEN, Charles TENNYSON, Louis QUERNS, M. NOIR, John DUFFY, and Clyde LAUDERBAUGH.


McDonald today is remembered for rearing a number of citizens who made themselves famous across the United States.  Jay Livingston, composer and lyricist, wrote such hits as “Buttons and Bows," “Que Sera Sera,” and “Silver Bells,” to name a few. Alan Livingston, Jay's brother , was president of Capitol Records, created BOZO the Clown, brought the Beatles to America, and wrote and produced cartoons for Warner Brothers and Walt Disney. Mitsie Welch (Marilyn Cottle) with her husband, Ken, wrote for the once-popular Carol Burnett Shows.   And the sports field has recently gained NFL coaches Martin Schottenheimer and Marvin Lewis.

The local newspaper often highlighted the towns famous or creative citizens.  From the Nov. 16, 1914 issue of the McDonald PA Record, we read the following under the title "Song Composed by McDonald Man - 
  "When Andy Dies A Pauper," or the Millionaire One-step, is the latest song out, composed and published by J. S. JOHNSTON of Greensburg, Pa.
Mr. JOHNSTON is a native of McDonald and will be remembered by many of the older residents as the John JOHNSTON who conducted the first hotel and established the first newspaper in McDonald. His composition refers to John D. ROCKEFELLER, W. J. BRYAN and other notables, and takes a fling at Women's Suffrage. It is on sale at Mel MOORHEAD's Victrola Department, 15 cents a copy. Sent to any address for 20 cents." [Webmaster's Note:  I'm not sure if the hotel pictured above was Mr. Johnston's hotel.]


The Financial Edition of the Washington Observer Has This To Say About
McDonald, Pa. March 18, 1920  McDonald PA Outlook

Oil fields come and go but this can hardly be said about the McDonald field which has been giving up the pay fluid for the past 30 years. This with the mining industry has made McDonald the prosperous town of the Panhandle for many years.  Upwards of 50,000,000 barrels of oil have been taken from wells in the McDonald district since this field was first
developed in the year 1890.  In addition to this enormous amount of oil the land surrounding McDonald has given up thousands of tons of coal.  These two industries have given employment to more than 3000 men in the district for years.

The one factory of any size in McDonald, the Crescent Bottling works, has given employment to about 150 men and girls throughout the years.

The machine shop and foundries located here have run steadily and gave employment to an average of 50 men.  In the McDonald district there are approximately 12 active mines that have run throughout the year with the exception of time lost by the strike and car shortage. These conditions have hindered the progress of the community to some extent.  No new developments were made during the year in the mining industry as mot of this work was completed two years ago.  Practically all the coal lands are now in the hands of the operators who have developed their holdings.  The chemical works at Oakdale formerly furnished employment to many men in this district.

New firms have purchased the plants of the chemical works and it is understood that smaller factories will be established which will make another new line of employment in the district.  It is also reported that a large steel company has purchased a tract of land near Noblestown upon which will be erected a plant.

The opening of the oil fields here in the year 1890 was the first boom in McDonald. The MATTHEWS well when drilled in produced 730 barrels per hour.  This well is still pumping and today has produced more than 2,000,000 barrels.  There are still about 600 producing wells in the field making an average production of about seven barrels per day.

Approximately 120 men are employed in the oil fields with an average monthly pay roll of more than $15,000.  Practically no new drilling has been done during the past year but several old wells were cleaned out in order to increase the production of the high priced oil.  At the present time considerable leasing is being done in the McDonald section and it is likely that some drilling will be done in an attempt to locate new pools.  When it
is considered that nearly 45,000,000 barrels of oil have been taken from this field which is still yielding about 2,500 barrels per months it will be seen why McDonald has been prosperous.

No municipal improving was done during the past year owing to the high cost of materials. Housing conditions in McDonald have not been good and at least 40 houses are needed at this time.  Some new residences have been erected during the year.  The passing of some of the hotels will also make housing conditions worse as far as transient travel is concerned. The Commercial hotel with Ben FRANKEL as proprietor has already been turned into an apartment house and no transient travel is accommodated.  Hotel Pitt
with F. A. THOMASSY proprietor is still operating and Mr. THOMASSY states that he is yet undecided as what he will do with his hotel.  He has but 10 transient rooms and these are filled every night and he is unable to accommodate all traffic.  Hotel VOYE is being made larger.  This will be used as an ice cream parlor and later a dining room will be enlarged for the serving of special dinners and dances.  Along side the hotel Mr. VOYE has also under the course of erection a large theatre that will be up-to-date in every way when completed.  The WILLS hotel has been closed for several months.

The First National Bank of McDonald has under course of erection one of the finest banking houses to be found outside of the large cities. It is all of marble and is located on the corner just across the street from their present banking house. It will present a handsome appearance when completed and will be a valued addition to the town as well as the financial institution.  It will be commodious and modern in every way.  The bank will be fitted throughout with entirely new equipment, including new furniture, new vaults and safes.  It is expected that the new building will be ready for occupancy by May or June.  It will be purely a banking house and will be occupied entirely by the financial institution which has grown rapidly with McDonald.

The First National Bank has now almost reached the two and one-half million mark in resources and with deposits of more than two million.  This band with a capital of $50,000 has a surplus and undivided profit fund of $254,715.  Its resources are $2,458,335 and deposits, $2,131,120.  The deposits increased the past year $184,616.  Since the
organization this bank has paid its stockholders, in dividends, $194,500.

The McDonald Savings and Trust company has had a prosperous year and is fast climbing the ladder toward the million dollar mark.  This bank is capitalized at $125,000 and has a surplus and undivided profit fund of $30,500.  Its resources are $728,992 or an increase of over $200,000 within the past three years.  The deposits are now $573,492 or an increase of $113,659.  The bank has paid in dividends since organization $73,125.  Recently the McDonald Savings and Trust company established a foreign department with B. TEKESHAZY, of Pittsburgh, in charge.  He speaks seven languages.

Recently the borough voted in favor of a $70,000 bond issue for the erection of a borough building.  The building will be located on McDonald and North streets and work will be started soon.  It will contain council rooms, the fire department, a public library, club rooms for the service men of this district together with other conveniences for the

McDonald has always been known as an oil town and with about 600 wells still pumping an upwards to a dozen mines giving employment to more than 3,000 men the continued prosperity of McDonald is assured.

Today, McDonald’s 2,500 residents enjoy the best of living close to the city of Pittsburgh near the junction of the Montour and Panhandle Trails.

Note: Articles courtesy of researcher, Victoria Hospodar Valentine.  Used with permission.


Please see McDonald, PA on the website Washington Co., PA, 'Little Washington', Genealogy and Family History for a description of this fine old city.  You will see some pictures there and get access to newspapers of the McDonald area.  City-Data has an USGS map showing McDonald PA on their site, along with information based on the 2000 Census.

For more information, contact:

Heritage Public Library, 52 Fourth St. 
McDonald, PA 15057 
PHONE: 724-926-8400 
FAX: 724-926-4686 





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Regional area Map of Washington County (west section)

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This page was last updated on Saturday, December 05, 2015 02:07

Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420

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