Three Centuries of Pittsburgh History
Pittsburgh’s growth from an outcropping visited by traders to an industrial center to its position today as a center for technology, medicine and tourism charts a path through many of the important events in U.S. history.
Pre-Industrial Pittsburgh (1700-1812)
Without written records, historians and archaeologists can only theorize that Pittsburgh’s first modern inhabitants were various Iroquois groups and later, British and French traders.
Two French explorers left a diary of their 1749 expedition to the confluence of the three rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela & Ohio), now Point State Park. Four years later, Major George Washington traveled here as an emissary to warn the French to evacuate the region.
He wrote a report urging that the British construct a fort at the Forks of the Ohio, declaring the site “extremely well-situated for a fort, having command of both rivers.” The two nations traded control of the strategic location, each building a fort – the British building Fort Prince George and the French building Fort Duquesne
Only to see it destroyed. The British recovered and took control of the land in November 1758, after the French abandoned their fort following the signing of the treaty which ended the French & Indian War. The British then built a then state-of-the-art fort, Fort Pitt, named after William Pitt, the Prime Minister of England. The small village of Pittsborough soon grew around Fort Pitt and the name was later officially changed to Pittsburgh. Those first British settlers began mining coal from the southern hillside (present-day Mt. Washington) opposite the point in the early 1760s.