Map of Mifflin Township, with Jefferson Township on the reverse, by Hopkins, 1876.
Mifflin Township with Jefferson Township on the reverse, engraved by Edward Busch, published by G.M. Hopkins in the Atlas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 1876.
These maps offer a very different look at Mifflin and Jefferson than the one that exists today. Perhaps the most recognizable difference is the changing of their names, which occurred in part with their incorporating as boroughs. As areas of the townships experienced economic growth they broke away, forming new municipalities. Each split took resources away from the townships as they lost jurisdiction over the new municipalities. Concern over the loss of these resources prompted the township boards to petition the state to be incorporated as boroughs. Mifflin Township is now the Borough of West Mifflin and Jefferson Township became the Borough of Jefferson Hills. Therefore the boundaries on these maps no longer represent the boundaries of the boroughs.
On each map are the names of the residents who owned the land. Additionally names of communities appear in bold with each township. It is fascinating to look at the maps and not find some of the cities and boroughs that exist today. For example the area that is now the City of Clairton is largely unsettled on the Jefferson map. There are clusters of homesteads along the railroad and the few roads that cut through the area but there is no concentration of streets to indicate that a city would soon occupy the location. It demonstrates just how rapidly growth occurred in the county thanks to coal and steel production.
Allegheny County was formed on September 24, 1788. It was created from parts of Washington and Westmoreland Counties. In 1791, Pittsburgh became the county seat. At its inception, the county stretched north to Lake Erie. However, by 1800 it had acquired the boundaries we know today. Upon its creation, Allegheny County included seven original townships; these townships were Elizabeth, Mifflin, Moon, Pitt, Plum, St. Clair, and Versailles. Today the county includes one hundred thirty different municipalities, which is the most for any one county in Pennsylvania.
Mifflin Township, as mentioned above, was one of the county’s original townships. The township was named after Governor Thomas Mifflin (1744-1800), the first elected governor of Pennsylvania. It stretched from the Allegheny-Washington border along the Monongahela River to Streets Run. The Monongahela River formed both the eastern and northern borders of the township, while Streets Run marked the township’s border in the west. Coal and steel production caused a population boom in the area during the nineteenth century. The increasing population led to growing communities, which opted to break away from the township. Mifflin encountered its first loss of territory in 1828 when Jefferson Township was formed, splitting it in half. Twenty years later the Borough of West Elizabeth broke away. Seven more communities would incorporate between 1880 and 1905. This drastically reduced the township’s population. Therefore the Commissioners pushed for the passage of Act #333 which would allow the incorporation of townships into boroughs. Their efforts were successful and on January 3, 1944, Mifflin became the first township to become a borough. “West” was added to the name upon becoming a borough to avoid confusion with other areas called Mifflin in Pennsylvania.
Jefferson Township was born on January 22, 1828, from former areas of Mifflin and St. Clair Townships. It is named after Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). The split meant that the borough’s jurisdiction included a smaller area making it easier to administer. When created the communities of Pleasant Hills, Clairton, as well as portions of Baldwin and Snowden (South Park) were part of the borough. However, rapid economic growth created a population explosion, like in other parts of Allegheny County, and it was not long before new municipalities were carved from Jefferson. The first loss of territory occurred in 1844, when part of the township was used to form Baldwin Township. Snowden Township annexed part of Jefferson when it was incorporated the next year and this loss was followed by the secession of West Elizabeth two years after that, in 1848. The twentieth century brought further shrinking of the township with the creation of the Boroughs of Clairton (1903), Wilson (1907), North Clairton (1915), and Pleasant Hills (1947). In losing Pleasant Hills, the township lost a significant percentage of its population. These secessions resulted in a spread out largely rural community. Jefferson Township therefore decided to petition for incorporation as a borough. This request was granted and in 1950 Jefferson became a borough. It was renamed Jefferson Hills, on November 3, 1998, following a referendum.
The map-producing firm of brothers G. M. and Henry Hopkins was one of America’s most prolific. Founded in 1865 in Philadelphia, the company produced over one hundred seventy-five atlases between its inception and 1940. Their maps were known for their exquisite detail and beautiful hand-coloring. Eighteen states including their cities, counties, and townships, were mapped by the company throughout its heyday. Originally the firm was named G.M. Hopkins and Company, but Henry changed it to the G.M. Hopkins Company in 1902 following his brother’s death the year prior. Henry Hopkins continued to run the company until his retirement in 1907, at which time he passed it on to George B.C. Thomas. The G.M. Hopkins Company struggled during the depression and due to its decline was bought, in 1943, by the Franklin Survey Company. In 1986, it was renamed the Franklin Map Company and continues to publish under that name.
- Naomi Bean
Plate Size: 13.5” x 16.25”
Sheet Size: 14” x 17.25”