Liberty, the Mysterious Township

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By Tom Powers and Jim Wudarczyk

Prior to the American Civil War, the City of Pittsburgh consisted of approximately nine square miles and incorporated what we now know as Downtown, the Hill District, and part of the Strip District. Beyond those scant boundaries were a number of small villages and rural townships.

When Helen Wilson, vice president of the Squirrel Hill Historical Society, asked the Lawrenceville Historical Society if we had any information on a “Liberty Township,” it set off a search to identify some of the villages, boroughs, and townships that eventually comprised some of the East End neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

In tracing some of the municipalities that eventually comprised many of the eastern communities of Pittsburgh, one finds that neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Garfield, Point Breeze, Shadyside, Bloomfield, and Squirrel Hill were formerly part of Pitt Township. In Annals of Southwestern Pennsylvania Volume 1, Lewis Clark Walkinshaw gives a vague description of the boundaries of Pitt Township. He indicates, “Pitt Township was named for Fort Pitt, and was the municipality bounded north and west by the Allegheny and Ohio.” Over time, Pitt Township was reduced several times. (See Pittsburgh Area Municipalities map.)

One township carved from Pitt Township was Peebles. Court dockets indicate that it was incorporated November 26, 1833. Wikipedia shows four maps under Collins Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Based on these maps, it appears that Peebles encompassed a large geographic area that ran from the borders of the city, Lawrenceville, and the remainder of Pitt Township on the west to the current city line on the east. It also extended from the Allegheny River on the north to the Monongahela on the south.

Lawrenceville Borough split off from Peebles on February 18, 1834. The boundaries were smaller in comparison to the area that we know…

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