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History of Roscoe Borough

History of Roscoe, Washington Co., PA.

Source: A History of Roscoe, Pennsylvania (Bicentennial book) June 1995.
Compiled and Written by: nancy Risher Bilitski, Eevelyn Gazi Bloom, Dolores Petrick Edwards, Peggie Marciak Holman, Helen B. Webb.

History of Roscoe

Roscoe is a small community that comprises 0.2 square miles and has a population of 872. It is located in the southern part of Washington County in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The small compact town originally consisted of a narrow strip of land between the railroad tracks and the Monongahela River. Roscoe is located about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh in the area commonly known as the "Mon Valley." The town is surrounded by hills covered with many deciduous species of trees -- oak, maple, walnut, locust, wild black cherry, sumac, dogwood and tulip trees. Conifer species are also represented: Eastern white pine and spruces. As the seasons change, so too does the background of the town. When winter approaches, these trees standing like sentinels, are bare and often snow-covered. In the spring and summer the hills turn from brown to green and are covered by lush vegetation. As autumn approaches, the residents are treated to an array of colors: red, orange, gold and yellow.
Indian Beginnings

Although archeological data has been recorded and many Indian artifacts survive as evidence of the "Monongahela Man" and "Early Woodland Indian" cultures, there is a major blank in the history of later Indian settlements in the mid-Monongahela Valley.

Many of the principal Eastern tribes seem to have been here at one time -- the Delaware, Seneca, Shawnee, Mingo, Ottawa and Miami.

In the early 1700's, Western Pennsylvania, then known as the "Land West if the Mountains," was believed to belong to the Indians. However, English settlers, growing restless in the civilizations of eastern Pennsylvania and western Virginia, slowly moved into the area. French explorers moved down from the North and both the French and the English were lured by rich trapping bounties.

The ambitious of the two great nations to control this lush wilderness and the vast rivers it contained erupted into a struggle for an entire continent and the first eruptions were in the mid-Mon Valley. Neither side wished to relinquish claims to the land. A skirmish between lieutenant colonel George Washington and a small party of French erupted somewhere between Ohiopyle and Redstone Creek where it joins the Monongahela. This was the spark that began the French and Indian War.

No longer in need of Indian allies, the victorious English began as elimination of the Indians from their lands. Indian life, which demanded large hunting territories, was doomed. Under the Ottawa chieftain, Pontiac, the western tribes of the Iroquois, Algoquin and the tribes of the lower Mississippi made a simultaneous attack on all the frontier forts. After two years of warfare, the Indians were subdued and the land opened up for settlement. The Indians continued to venture into this area for hunting purposes only, even as the settlers were trekking in. It was at this time the Mon Valley began to become permanently settled.

Early Settlers

The earliest information anyone has been able to find for Lucyville dates back to October 2, 1784. At that time, Joshua DIXON secured a patent of land from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the territory that was to become Allen Township in 1852. Dixon was just one of many settlers who was given land in this large territory. Others include Henry SPEERS, Jeremiah PROCTOR, Rev. William RIGGS, Lawrence and John CROW, Peter HAZELBAKER, Thomas STOCKDALE, David ENGLANDS, William HOWE, William JACKMAN, Joseph CHESTER, and William HUGGINS. (Note: many boroughs were eventually "carved" out of Allen Township - Allenport, Dunlevy, Elco, Long Branch, Roscoe, Speers, Stockdale, Twilight, and Vesta.)

The DIXON property passed down through the Dixon family until it came to the family of William LATTA, who deeded it to his sons, Ostrander and Alexander on May 18, 1868. The Latta brothers in turn sold a part of their holdings to John SPHAR on June 3, 1869. All three of these families: the Dixons, the Lattas, and the Sphars, lived on in "Roscoe" throughout their years. Upon the death of Edward, the last of the Sphar family in the area, his holding were sold to many different families and the family name was all but erased from the memory of the town's people. The Latta family still has descendants in Roscoe -- Gibson and Harry CHESTER.

Both the Latta and Sphar families laid out a plan of lots to be used for development purposes. The Sphar plan became known as "Lucyville."

Lucyville comprised the area of present-day Roscoe from Howard Street on the east to Agnes Alley of the west. Its northern border was the Pittsburgh, Virginia and Charleston Railroad tracks, its southern border was the Monongahela River. Lucyville remained a small mining village for several years. However, with the coming of the industrial development to the Monongahela Valley in the early 1890's, the town was incorporated. The incorporation papers asking that the Borough of Roscoe be formed were filed in the Washington County Recorder's Office on June 7, 1894. John C. BANE, represented those citizens seeking incorporation, for fifty dollars. The money was paid by W. A. FURLONG and the receipt dated March 29, 1894.

Before applying for the charter, the residents decided the name "Lucyville" was not indicative of the virility needed to make a town prosper. A movement was started to change the name. By a vote of the residents, it was decided that the community would be known as "Roscoe" in honor of Mrs. Joseph UNDERWOOD whose maiden name was ROSCOE.

At this time two more plans of lots were plotted by E. C. FURLONG and Mrs. J. J. RATTIGAN. Other plans of lots were the VRABLE and Old Alps Coal Company. In 1947 the Eckert plan of lots was laid out by Ruth and Emil ECKERT. The LEE plan of lots was added in June 1950. The last plan of lots was added in 1976 and was laid out by William KLEIN.

Today, Allenport borders Roscoe of the north and east and Elco in the western boundary. The southern boundary is directly on the banks of the Monongahela River.

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© Copyright 1999 by Michael A. Donaldson
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