Ross residents create 'diary' for township

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While a bicentennial history of Ross has been published, collection of community stories continues.

The township's 10 days of 200th birthday events include three evening programs with historical themes next week at Evergreen Park.

About the book

Copies of the Ross bicentennial history book are available for $10 at several locations around the township. They include the municipal building, 1000 Ross Municipal Drive; North Hills Printing, 982 Perry Highway; the Medicine Shoppe, 997 Perry Highway; Northland Public Library, 300 Cumberland Road; and Blue Wave Auto Spa, 4560 McKnight Road.

People planning to attend the free bicentennial history activities at Evergreen Park are asked to call the township recreation department at 412-931-7055, Ext. 204, to register. Registration forms also are available at the municipal building.

Events include a talk on the history of the Schlag Log House and Schram Farm by Sandy M. Brown on Monday, "Share Your Memories" on Tuesday and a history of the Harmony Line and the Biddle Boys by John Makar next Thursday.

All three events will begin at 7 p.m.

One will be "Share Your Memories," on Tuesday night, where residents are encouraged to bring photographs, documents and family memoirs. Copies of those documents can be made and become part of the township historical society's archives.

Family tales are at the heart of the community history, according to members of the committee that collected photos, wrote articles and edited the book.

Commissioner Grace Stanko recalled hearing many tales describing the early days of Ross while commuting to work with her father. "My dad told me all these stories that were either about how to save money or about the history of Ross Township," she recalled. Mrs. Stanko is president of the Ross Township Historical Society, which published the bicentennial history.

"We didn't have important historic events like the Battle of Bushy Run in Ross," said Sandy M. Brown, another member of the book committee. "Our story is the people who lived here."

Two thousand copies of the book were printed by Knepper Press Corp. in Clinton. More than 800 have been sold.

The 128-page softcover book includes a timeline, a short history of the community, a schedule of bicentennial activities, sponsor advertising and brief essays from township commissioners.

Other pages are devoted to topics including businesses, roads, education, churches and veterans. The largest section includes "Family and Community Stories: From Farms to Suburbs."

"We have included excellent material from a family history written by Margaret Affolder Dickson," Mrs. Brown said. "Her parents had a truck farm, and they drove all over the area, helping to feed Pittsburgh."

In 1969 Mrs. Dickson wrote: "Dad sold his produce at the old Allegheny market on Federal and Ohio streets. He usually had a space on the sidewalk, almost across from the Boggs and Buhl department store. Dad usually sold out quickly, since he was quite particular about his produce."

The book also includes excerpts from the 1881 diary that 28-year-old farmer John Rosberg Sangree kept. His farm was near Siebert Road and includes part of what is now the Berkeley Hills neighborhood.

He began recording his impressions Jan. 1 of that year, with a description of a sleigh ride from the farm into the village of Perrysville. Other noteworthy events during the year included snowball fights, cattle and produce sales and calls on young women.

The saddest event was the sudden death of his mother from typhoid. "This morning we found mother unable to rise from bed, having been in a severe chill for several hours," he wrote on Aug. 18. She died three days later.

The diary excerpts end Dec. 29 with Mr. Sangree's marriage to Florence J. Whitesell. "Raining most of the day but broke off, got cooler and very pleasant tonight. ... A very happy occasion to me," he wrote. "Quite a good number of friends were present ... and all seem to be full of glee and satisfied with the event."

Dave Lavender, who had a long career in magazine publishing, oversaw layout of the book. Other members of the book committee included M. Susan Campbell, Diane Lederer Holleran, Craig Linner, Commissioner Lana Mazur, Emily Plazek and Cindy Ulrich.

"Everybody had their niche," Mr. Lavender said.

Ms. Holleran and Ms. Ulrich, for example, had previous experience doing histories of West View and McCandless.

"Susan, Diane and the others have a passion for history, and they were willing to step up and get this book done," Mrs. Stanko said.

"I think Susan Campbell and I are just glad to have completed the project with our sanity," Mrs. Brown said. Her previous research into Ross's past included creating an archive for Hiland Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Lavender, who grew up near Evergreen Park, wrote about the legend of the Indian Spring there. According to local folklore, an American Indian girl, fleeing an arranged marriage, and her boyfriend were weakened by thirst as they sought to escape from vengeful members of her tribe. "The young brave prayed to the Great Spirit for help," Mr. Lavender wrote. "Suddenly a spring gushed from solid rock." Refreshed by the water, the couple successfully escaped.

After a 1924 story in the Pittsburgh Press revived the legend, "people came to drink the life-giving water," he wrote. "Cars would line up along Evergreen Road as people brought jars and other containers to collect the water."

"I like history," Mr. Lavender said. "It was very interesting to learn more about places like Perrysville.

By 1815 the village of Perrysville included three houses and a store. By 1876 it had hotels and a post office. By the end of the century it was home to a school and three churches, according to the new history book.

A 1903 story in the Pittsburg Leader -- the city lost its "h" between 1890 and 1911 -- reported that Perrysville, only seven miles from Downtown, was "the most completely isolated town in this end of the state."

While village skies were not darkened by the smoke from Pittsburgh industries, residents could sometimes hear "the distant rumble and grind of the mills." Perrysville, however,remained "totally apart as though hundreds of miles of trackless forest shut it off from the outer world."

Len Barcousky can be reached at or 724-772-0184.


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