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History of the Borough of Sharpsburg

 

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The Borough of Sharpsburg is a quiet, spirited community located along the Allegheny River just over 5 miles outside of Downtown Pittsburgh.  Sharpsburg has a rich history dating back to the 1700s when the Seneca Indians settled into the area.  One Seneca in particular, Guyasuta, has a special connection to the community. 

 

Guyasuta was a strong warrior and skilled hunter.  He was chosen by George Washington to be a hunter guide with his party in 1753.  When the two met again in Ohio 17 years later, General Washington greeted him with warmth and affection.  In 1758, Guyasuta was involved in a bitter battle at Grant’s Hill, where the Allegheny County Courthouse stands today. In the early 1760s, Guyasuta sought after peace with the British Army.  Guyasuta’ s peace efforts culminated into a peace treaty in which the government received a tract of land in what is now Western Pennsylvania.  James O’Hara, who had purchased a portion of the river land, donated a small portion of it, where Sharpsburg is today, to Guyasuta. 

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In 1826, a man named James Sharp rode into this area and became enchanted by the beauty of the territory.  He purchased 200 acres of the land and built a log cabin for his wife, envisioning it as the beginning of a town that would be rich in the values Sharp felt were important to the quality of life in a community.  Opening the land to settlers, Sharp became invested in the town, building a school and church while continuing to donate his land for the growing needs of the community.  On December 14, 1841, the borough applied for incorporation, and received its charter March 14, 1842.  Sharpsburg was born!

 

Since its incorporation, Sharpsburg became an industrial town, manufacturing iron, brick and glass while goods were transported through the canal that bisected the borough, along with the Allegheny River.  When railroads became the preferred mode of transportation for that time, Sharpsburg continued to thrive as thousands came for the plethora

of job opportunities available. 

 

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One of the most well-known industries that had its beginnings in Sharpsburg was the H.J. Heinz Company.  The Heinz glass works in Sharpsburg once manufactured all of the glassware for Heinz products.  In 1904, Heinz began crating and bottling his first horseradish in the kitchen of his Sharpsburg residence.  This house is the place where it all began.  Shortly thereafter, the house became Heinz’s first factory.  Although he moved his company down the Allegheny along the North Shore of Pittsburgh, he was very gracious to the people of Sharpsburg until his passing, donating gifts to the community that was their family home for many years.  One of these included the life-sized statue of Guyasuta that was installed at the intersection of Main and North Canal Streets.

 

Not even less than a century ago, Sharpsburg was divided into two sections because of a railroad track that went through the location where Kennedy Park currently sits.  There were two fire departments, one on each side of the tracks. There were two schools on each side of the track as well, one “up street” and one “down street.”  Once the railroad tracks weren’t used anymore, the railcars sat vacant on the tracks.  The Junior Chamber of Commerce in Sharpsburg went to the railroad company as well as the Heinz family to try and change something about this.  The Heinz family said they would help build a park if it was used for recreation purposes only.  The park was built around the time when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and that is why the area was named Kennedy Park.

 

Today, Sharpsburg continues to boast pride of its industrial past while looking forward to the opportunities of economic growth within the business district, and its residents enjoy being a part of this unique riverfront community.