1840 Census PA Allegheny County Pine Twn im13_21 pg55B:

Wm Alston

Male:  two 5-10; one 10-15; two 15-20; one 40-50

Female: one under 5; one 5-10; one 40-50

NB:  This probably represents all four known sons and two known daughters of William Alston, plus one other young male.   In 1850, Pine Twn was divided, with the southern part becoming McCandless Twn.  In 1860, William M. Alston and Archibald Alston were counted as next-door neighbors in McCandless Twn.  John M. Alston's bio says that he was working on his family's farm from 1834-37.  This is farm was apparently in Pine Township, later McCandless Township, and split at least in two, maybe when William died.


1850 Census OH Colombiana Co Fairfield im__of__ visit 397:

Name               Age      Sex      Occup.             Business Real   POB

Archibald Alston           23        M         Contractor        PaORR                        Scotland          

William Alston  53        M         Contractor        PaORR            6000    Scotland

The Alstons are counted with 32 other men, one blacksmith, one baker, 30 laborers, mostly from Ireland.  PaORR is the Pennsylvania-Ohio Railroad.  This indicates a YOB for Archibald of 1827 and for William 1797.


Source Information:

Gale Research. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2003. Original data: Filby, P. William, edit. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Research, 2003.

Name:    William Alston

Year:    1834 

Place:    Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania 

Source Publication Code:    9695 

Primary Immigrant:    Alston, William

Annotation:    Much information given, including date of intention to acquire citizenship, date of naturalization, place of residence, country of birth, and name of sponsor. 

Source Bibliography:    WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY, Pittsburgh, compilers. A List of Immigrants Who Applied for Naturalization Papers in the District Courts of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh: the society. Vol. 1, 1798-1840. 1978. 109p. 6,360 names. 

Page:    6 


Title: Biographical review; v. 24, containing life sketches of leading citizens of Pittsburg and the vicinity, Pennsylvania.  Imprint: Boston : Biographical Review Publishing Co., 1897, pages 84-86, images are online at:  http://digital.library.pitt.edu


William Alston was born in Lanark, Scotland

Lived in Lanark after marriage to Agnes Menzies

1830 - came to US

1831 - walked to Pittsburgh

June 1831 - family joins him

Contractor - Fagan, Swan and Alston

Children:  William,  d. age 64; John M., architect, b. ca. 1823; Archibald, a stone contractor; Christina,  wife of Joseph Williams; Robert, superintendent of Standard Steel Works in Mifflin County; and Margaret,  wife of Joseph Stevenson.

1852 - dies


            John M. Alston, a prominent architect and contractor of Pittsburgh, was born August 22, 1823, in the town of Lanark, Lanarkshire, Scotland, where his grandfather Alston, a stone cutter, spent his ninety-four years of life.  His mother's father, John Menzies, a blacksmith, attained the age of ninety-eight years; and John Menzie's wife lived to the age of ninety-six years.

            William Alston, the father of John M., lived in Lanark some years after his marriage, having there been a stone contractor.  In 1830, desiring to improve his circumstances, he came to the United States, landing at New York, where his efforts to secure work proved futile.  He then walked to Philadelphia, and thence to Pottsville, where he was employed for a short time.  Returning again to Philadelphia, he started in the month of January, 1831, for Pittsburgh on foot.  The canals were then in process of construction; and, having secured remunerative employment, he sent for his family, which joined him the next June.  Subsequently he worked on the court-house and on the Duquesne water-works in the capacity of foreman.  Then he formed a partnership with a contractor named Fagan, and having organized the firm of Fagan, Swan & Alston, continued in contracting several years, building the old bank of Pittsburg [sic] and the Chestnut Street and the Ninth Street bridges.  When the senior partner died, William Alston, in company with Mr. Hanna, built the locks on the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers.  They subsequently took a contract on the old Pennsylvania, now the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad; but before its completion, in 1852, Mr. Alston died.  His wife, whose maiden name was Agnes Menzies, survived him, living until November, 1876.  Of their eight children two died in childhood.  Their son William died at the age of sixty-four years.  The survivors are: John M., the subject of this sketch; Archibald, a stone contractor, in Allegheny; Christina, the wife of Joseph Williams. of Avalon, this county; Robert, the superintendent of the Standard Steel Works in Mifflin County; and Margaret, the wife of Joseph Stevenson, of the same county.

            John M. Alston was eight years of age when he came with his parents to this county.  After attending for a time the old academy at Allegheny, conducted by Master John Kelley, he went to work at stone cutting at the age of eleven, and continued so employed until the removal of the family to a farm, when he was needed at home.  When fifteen years old he came to Allegheny to learn carpentering of an uncle, with whom he served a four years' apprenticeship, subsequently working for him six months as a journeyman carpenter.   Mr. Alston then secured a position with J.W. Kerr, the first architect to open an office in Pittsburg, remaining with him four years.  From that time until 1865 he was engaged in carpentering, millwright work, and pattern-making, and thereafter until 1877 in the business of contractor.  Then, resuming the profession of an architect, he has since carried on a thriving business.  Among the public buildings erected by him are: the fine school-house in Avalon; the Second Ward School-house in Allegheny, notable as one of the best in the State for school purposes; and the Buena Vista Street Methodist Episcopal Church.

            On January 13, 1848, Mr. Alston married Miss Mary, daughter of William and Mary Lemon.  She died March 10, 1875.  They had eight children, of whom two died in early life.  The others are: William and James, twins, who are machinists in Pittsburg; Archibald, who is a contractor in this city; John, a plasterer, residing in Allegheny; Charles, a blacksmith, who is a resident of Oakland; and Mary, who has kept house for her father since the death of her mother.  Since he cast his first Presidential vote for Henry Clay, Mr. Alston has invariably supported the Republican candidates for office.  He is a valued member of the Methodist Episcopal church.  The other organizations to which he belongs are: the I.O.O.F., the Temple of Honor, the Academy of Science and Art, the American Institute of Architects, and the Chapter Association of Architects of this city.

Note 1: 1925 Volume 5 - North Side: Wards 21, 27 and part of 22 and 25: Plate 4a shows the Buena Vista ME Church on Buena Vista corner of Sampson Avenue, one block north of Taylor Avenue.  Yahoo maps shows this today to be the corner of Sampsonia Way and Buena Vista Avenue on the North Side, not too far from the Uniondale Cemetery. 

Note 2: 1923 Volume 1 - Central Pittsburgh: Wards 1-6 and 9: Plate 14b shows Lock #1 on the Monongahela to be opposite Miltenberger Street (some blocks east of present-day Mercy Hospital).

Note 3:  1876 - Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 21 shows Lock #2 to be opposite Water Street, which still exists. 

Note 4:  1876 - Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 28 shows Lock #3. 

From Historic Pittsburgh website:


Title:   Harris' business directory of the cities of Pittsburgh & Allegheny / by Isaac Harris.

Originally Published: Pittsburgh : A.A. Anderson, c1844.

Business Directory, Allegheny City (p. 72)

Page 72 - Chapter

Allegheny City . . . Allston, Wm. stone cutter, c. N. alley and Federal st . . .

Note: (corner North Alley and Federal Street).  Allegheny City is now the North Side.   Federal Street is still there, opposite the 6th Street Bridge.


Title:  Harris' Pittsburgh business directory for the year 1837 : including the names of all the merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, professional, & men of business of Pittsburgh and its vicinity.

Originally Published: Pittsburgh : Isaac Harris, 1837-

Bridges (p. 159 and 160]


   This bridge passes from Hand street, Pittsburgh, to Sandusky street, Alleghenytown.  Contract given in January, 1837, and to be complete on the 1st of October, 1838 . . .


Wood Work, William Labaron.

Stone "  Pagan & Allston



Author:   Durant, Samuel W.

Title:  History of Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania : with illustrations descriptive of its scenery, palatial residences, public buildings, fine blocks, and important manufactories.

Originally Published: Philadelphia : L. H. Everts, 1876.

History of Pittsburgh (p. 121)

Page 122

The first bridge over the Allegheny, at Hand Street, was built in 1837-38 . . . Contractors, wood work, Lebaron; stone work, Pagan & Allston.  North Liberties Bridge -- to be completed in November, 1837 - . . . Contractors, . . . William Pagan & Co, stone work.


Author:   Fleming, George Thornton, 1855-1928.

Title:  Vol. 2 History of Pittsburgh and environs, from prehistoric days to the beginning of the American revolution ... / by George Thornton Fleming ...

Originally Published: New York, Chicago : The American historical society, inc., 1922.

Transportation (p. 139)

Page 163

The inconvenience of going to Allegheny to take trains soon compelled local enterprise to plan for bridges to connect both the Ohio & Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh & Steubenville roads with the heart of the city.  An enabling act was passed in 1854 permitting the construction of a railroad bridge across the Allegheny River, and very soon the contract for the bridge was given to Henderson, Allston & Company for $160,000.  Allegheny manifested much opposition to the bridge, and work was delayed, but the bridge was completed in rather more than two years.


Author:   Kussart, Sarepta Cooper, 1871-

Title:  The Allegheny river, by Mrs. S. Kussart.

Originally Published: Pittsburgh, Pa. : Burgum printing company, 1938.

Early Bridges Built across the Allegheny River (p. 41)

Page 42

  The act incorporating a company to build the Hand (later known as the Ninth) Street Bridge across the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh was approved by the Governor of Pennsylvania, June 26, 1836 . . . .  Sylvanus Lothrop was the architect for the bridge,  Allston & Company did the stonework, and William Le Barron the woodwork. The bridge was constructed on the arch principle.  The whole structure formed one graceful arch, extending from the mouth of Hand (later named Ninth) Street, in Pittsburgh,to the mouth of Cedar (later named Anderson)

Street, Allegheny.  The bridge cost the company $72,000, and was opened for use in April, 1840.  After this bridge had been in use for some time, it was repaired for the company by Daniel McCain, at the cost of $30,000.

   The Mechanic (or Sixteenth) Street Bridge was built in 1837, from the mouth of Mechanic Street, Pittsburgh, to the mouth of Chestnut Street, Allegheny.  The charter was granted in 1836 . . . Sylbanus Lothrop was the architect; J.K. Moorhead and E. Oles built the woodwork; and Wm. Pagan & Co., the stonework.   The original cost of the bridge was $62,400, but by the time it was destroyed by fire, January 26, 1851, the owners estimated its value as $75,000.  An insurance of $20,000 was realized on the structure, and it was rebuilt at once.



Author:   Parke, John E., 1806-1885.

Title:  Recollections of seventy years and historical gleanings of Allegheny, Pennsylvania / by John E. Parke.

Originally Published: Boston : Rand, Avery & Company, 1886.

Bridges (p. 124)

Page 125

Pittsburg and Allegheny Bridge

   This bridge, erected from the mouth of Hand Street (now Ninth Street), Pittsburgh, to the mouth of Cedar Street (now Anderson Street), Allegheny, was contracted for in January, 1837, to be completed October 1, 1838.  (At of incorporation was passed by the Legislature at the session of 1836, and approved by the governor, June 26, 1836.  It was completed and opened for travel in 1839.  It was constructed on the arch principle, the whole forming one graceful arch from bank to bank. 

   On the root a promenade was constructed, which in pleasant weather was quite a fashionable resort, until it became prostituted to base purposes, and hand to be abandoned.  The entire structure was thoroughly examined and repaired, at a cost of $30,000, by contractor Daniel McCain.

   The original contractors for constructing the bridge were, --

                   Wiliam La Barron, Wood-work

                   Pagan & Allston, Stone-work

                   Sylvanus Lothrop, Architect

The first officers elected . . . [names follow]

Note. -- The promenade above referred to was at one time the objective point of a ludicrous practical joke perpetrated on the citizens of both cities.  About the year 1852, handbills were prominently posted over the [cont. next page] cities, to the effect that a man would, on a certain day, fly from the roof of the Hand-street Bridge, and pass over the Suspension Bridge to the south side.  Long before the hour had arrived for the performance, the shore on each side of the river, and the Suspension Bridge, were densely crowded, and every available water-craft was brought into requisition to view the novel sight of a man flying.  Promptly at the hour indicated, the practical jokers made

their appearance on the roof of the bridge [and released a large gray goose.]

page 126

Mechanic-Street Bridge

This bridge was chartered in 1836, and erected the following year, from the mouth of Mechanic Street, now Sixteenth Street, Pittsburg, to the mouth of Chestnut Street, Allegheny, and opened for public travel in 1837.  It was destroyed by fire, Jan. 26, 1851, and rebuilt the same year.  Total loss, $75,000, on which there was an insurance of $20,000 . . .


J.K. Moorhead, E. Oles, Wood-work

William Pagan & Co., Stone-Work


Title:   Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny cities, 1864-1865.

Originally Published: Pittsburgh : University Library System's Digital Research Library, 2003.

Pg 248:

Pagan Robert, gent, cor Pitt ay and Gay ay, A

[Pagan, Robert, gentleman, corner Pittsburgh Avenue and Gay Avenue, Allegheny City]


Author:   Crumrine, Boyd, 1838-1916

Title:  History of Washington County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men / edited by Boyd Crumrine. Illustrated. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts and Co., 1882.

Originally Published: [Evansville, Ind. : Unigraphic, Inc., 1975]

Monangahela City (p. 565)

Page 582, 583:

Williamsport Bridge Company.-- This company was chartered by an act of the State Legislature, approved March 16, 1832 . . . Proposals for constructing the bridge were opened in July, 1836, and the contracts were then awarded to William Pagan and Robert Alston for stone-work, and to Lothrop & Stockton for superstructure. 

   The bridge was completed in 1838, at a cost of about sixty thousand dollars; and that the contractors performed honest work is attested by the fact that, though, it has been a prominent landmark and in constant use for nearly half a century, it is still in good condition.  Its

length is nine hundred and twenty-one feet.

[Note: Robert Alston, William's son, was born ca. 1834, so Robert Alston is possibly a typo.]


Author: Jordan, John W. (John Woolf), 1840-1921

Title: Genealogical and personal history of the Allegheny Valley, Pennsylvania; under the editorial supervision of John W. Jordan. Vol. 3

Imprint: New York, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1913.

Physical Extent: 3 v. illus., ports. 28 cm.

Page 848:

Extract:  William Alston was the contractor for a cement dam built on the Youghiogheny 1847-1849.


[From the bio of Joseph Robbins, b. 1824]:   "In the year of 1847, when the scheme of improving by slack water the Youghiogheny river was taken up, Mr. Robbins became one of its most active supporters, and aided in the raising the amount required to construct two dams, one at Elrods, and one at Buena Vista . . . The two dams to be constructed cost about $100,000, and this was raised by subscription to the capital stock of the Youghiogheny Navigation Company.  The contract was let to William Alston for the first lock at Elrods, and Theodore Swan for the one at Buena Vista.  These locks provided slack water navigation from McKeesport to West Newton.  The contractors encountered great difficulties in building the dams -- in following the specifications.  They required the dams to be built of plank and filled in with concrete and the dams would not hold water.  The company had agreed with the coal operators to have the dams finished in 1848.  The work was not completed until 1849, and was continued until the winter of 1861, when the heavy freeze caused the ice to gorge and the tops were taken off these dams . . . had the dams repaired and navigation resumed.  In the winter of 1865-66 the ice was exceedingly heavy.  The dams were then again badly damaged . . . about June 1, 1866, without any apparent cause, the upper dam gave way, and the result was that the lower dam was broken and the slack water of the Youghiogheny river was gone forever. The washout in the dam was a break of over twenty feet in width and came without warning, leaving the boats which were being loaded along the river at the coal tipples down on the bottom of the river , where they remained until broken up and destroyed by the floods of the succeeding year . . . "

Note:  Unable to find Elrods or the appropriate Buena Vista on my atlases. 


Author:   Boucher, John Newton, 1854-1933.

Title:  A century and a half of Pittsburg and her people / by John Newton Boucher ; illustrated. Vol. 2.

Originally Published: [New York] : The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.

Chapter XXIX. Architecture (p. 370)

Page 371

   There is no reason for supposing that there was a resident architect in Pittsburg prior to 1828, when the city had a population of perhaps eleven thousand . . . In the thirties were built . . . at least two banks of superior style.  They were the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Bank and the Bank of Pittsburg.  The architect who built them was most likely John Chislett, who came to Pittsburg, or at least began business there, in 1833.  He was the architect of the court house built in 1841, and this building showed clearly the bent of his mind toward the classic style of architecture.

   The court house, which was destroyed by fire on May 7, 1882, was one which reflected great credit on those who built it.  Its exterior showed the people of Pittsburg even at that early day were cultivating a taste for the highest style in architecture.  The builders were Coltart and Dilworth. The main part of the building fronted 165 feet on Grant street, and extended back

Page 372

along Fifth avenue 100 feet.  In the rear of this structure was the jail, which was connected with it.  Facing on Grant street was a portico of the purest style of Grecian architecture.  The entablature was supported by two rows of fluted columns, six in each row, and each column was six feet in diameter.  The entire structure was of gray sandstone, which had been quarried from the neighboring hills.

   [engraved picture of building, with caption, Ruins of Old Court House, Pittsburg, Built 1841;

burned down Sunday, May 7, 1882]

The elements had darkened their original color somewhat, so that it might easily have been taken for a granite building, but for the fact that the stones scaled badly.   Surmounting all was a beautiful dome, supported by columns of stone and the interior being supported by seven Corinthian columns.  Above the dome was a lantern the top of which was 148 feet above the pavement.  The dome was about thirty-seven

feet in diameter at its base.  in the center of the building was a rotunda sixty feet in diameter and eighty feet high.  Surrounding the rotunda were four court rooms, each forty-five feet square, and easily accessible to those were jury rooms, and other apartments necessary in court business.  On the basement floor were ten rooms, twenty-five feet by thirty-two feet, which were used by the county officers.  These rooms were arched with stone and were supposed to be fire-proof, and were as nearly so as the architecture of that day would admit of.  In these rooms were the public records kept.  The whole effect of the structure was one of strength, simplicity and beauty, and the architect had combined these with the all-important requisite, utility in a remarkable degree.  The structure is said to have cost about $200,000.

   This court house was a very handsome structure, and began to be admired a great deal by the citizens of Pittsburg as an old building and as one of great architectural beauty.  It had been first used in 1841.  On Sunday, May 7, 1882, it was destroyed by fire . . .


Title:   Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; personal and genealogical, Vol. 1.

Originally Published: Madison, Wis. : Northwestern Historical Association, 1904.

Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Volume I (p. 17)

Page 388

Robert B. Pagan, of Haysville, Pa, prominently identified with the oil industry of that part of the country, was born on September 12, 1855.  He is a son of Robert Pagan, a native of Dumfries, Scotland, who came to America in the spring of 1836, at the age of twenty-one years, and here followed his trade of stone-cutting for a number of years, assisting in the stone work on the old Williamsport bridge, and also doing that kind of work for a railroad company.  The dust from the stone later began to affect his lungs, and consequently he gave up that trade and engaged in farming in Ohio township, where he died on March 27, 1893, at the age of seventy-eight years . . . [More on his son]