Lower Burrell Writer’s Book Highlights 30 Alle-Kiski Communities Past and Present



From Aluminum City Terrace to Yellow Dog Village, there is a story behind every small town in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Writer George Guido of Lower Burrell has collected several of these in his new book, “Neighborhoods of the Alle-Kiski Valley: 30 Communities Full of Unique History”. He will sell copies from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Tarentum night market.

Guido has already looked at local history, writing “Remember When” and “Through the Years” columns for the Valley News Dispatch, as well as a book on the sports history of Alle-Kiski Valley and a photographic history of New Kensington for the city’s 125th anniversary in 2016.

This time around, Guido said, he focused on “30 neighborhoods in the Valley News Dispatch traffic zone, mostly small neighborhoods that sprang up around coal mines, and some were suburban spending. at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century “.

The spotlight is also hitting some of the most notable – or should we say notorious – citizens of these neighborhoods.

“When you do research, you come across a lot of things,” Guido said.

He learned that pioneering automaker Henry Ford was interested in building a glass factory in Glassmere in the 1920s.

“He and others discovered that the sand along the banks of the Allegheny River was suitable for glass making. He wanted a glass factory for his windows and windshields, ”Guido said. “They wanted to dredge the Allegheny River and build a canal from the Alle-Kiski Valley to Lake Erie so Henry Ford could transport his windshields and the like by boat to his factory in Dearborn, Michigan.

“It never materialized. The Great Depression came, World War II came, and there just wasn’t the money to do a public works project like this, ”he said. “Ford has built houses in the area, and some are still standing. ”

Notable names

Then there is the colorful history of Yellow Dog Village.

“It was near Kittanning, and there was a limestone mine there in the 1890s and early 1900s. Of course, no one had a car, so workers had to go there on horseback. or by train, or on foot, ”Guido said. “The guy who owned the mine decided to build his own houses. You could buy her a house if you promised not to join a union or try to form a union.

“Back then, these contracts were called yellow dogs, so Yellow Dog Village sprouted there because the people who lived there had to promise not to get involved in union activities,” he said. .

No book on the Alle-Kiski Valley would be complete without a mention of pioneering journalist Nelly Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864 in Cochran Mills, now part of Burrell Township.

She was studying at Indiana Normal School (now Indiana University of Pennsylvania) when her father passed away, Guido said.

“There was no more money for her to go to college, so she dropped out and she and her mother moved to Pittsburgh to, more or less, start over,” he said. “The editor of one of the Pittsburgh newspapers wrote an op-ed that women should only focus on being nurses and teachers, and she responded in a letter saying that is not. true, women are qualified to do many other jobs.

“She was 18 at the time, and he was so impressed that he hired her for $ 5 a week, and she ended up doing all of these revolutionary things,” Guido said, including a presentation on conditions in a New York “insane asylum” and the challenge that she accepted to travel around the world in 80 days, which she did in 72 days.

On the scandalous side, there’s the story of Mary Schenley, whose name graces a Pittsburgh park, a former high school, and an unincorporated community in Gilpin. When she was 15, she was sent after graduation to New York, to escape with the brother of the school owner, a man who was 42 at the time.

And then there was Leon Czolgosz, a native of Natrona, who assassinated President William McKinley in 1901.

“Every community has its story, but I’m sure Natrona doesn’t want to hang on to that,” Guido said.

Pandemic issues

The book began with a suggestion from Karen Watkins, owner of The Last Word bookstore in Lower Burrell.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you do something in the neighborhoods?’ So I ran with this idea, ”he said. He just couldn’t run very fast with it during the pandemic.

“The problem with that was that the museums were closed, the libraries were closed,” he said. “To really do the research, I had to wait for them to open.”

He also obtained stories and photos from historical societies, Valley News Dispatch archives and personal collections.

Its editors are Tom and Francine Costello, owners of Word Association in Taranto.

They ran into supply chain issues getting the book printed, but Guido received his first 125 copies late last week.

“I sold half of it in four days,” he said.

It will continue to print and sell to meet demand, he said. The book is available on amazon.com and can be ordered on its Facebook page.

Shirley McMarlin is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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