Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Last updated

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Borough of Canonsburg
West Pike Street near the intersection of North Jefferson Avenue
Etymology: John Canon
Guntown [1]
"America's Small Town Music Capital"
Washington County Pennsylvania Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Canonsburg Highlighted.svg
Location of Canonsburg in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
USA Pennsylvania location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Location of Canonsburg in Pennsylvania
Coordinates: 40°15′43″N80°11′6″W / 40.26194°N 80.18500°W / 40.26194; -80.18500 Coordinates: 40°15′43″N80°11′6″W / 40.26194°N 80.18500°W / 40.26194; -80.18500
CountryUnited States
State Pennsylvania
County Washington
  MayorDavid H. Rhome
  Total2.31 sq mi (5.98 km2)
  Land2.31 sq mi (5.98 km2)
  Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
  Density4,218.18/sq mi (1,628.63/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
  Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
Area code 724/412
School District Canon-McMillan

Canonsburg is a borough in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Pittsburgh. Canonsburg was laid out by Colonel John Canon in 1789 and incorporated in 1802. The population was 9,735 at the 2020 census. [3] The town lies in a rich coal district, and most of the town's work force once worked in local steel mills or coal mines. Interstate 79 and U.S. Route 19 pass through the town, as does the Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad. A trolley used to operate from Washington, Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh through the borough until 1953.


The town is home to Sarris Candies and All-Clad Metalcrafters, makers of cookware and other bonded metals. It is adjacent to the Southpointe office park located in Cecil Township, which has a number of large corporate tenants. Yenko Chevrolet, one of largest and most notable custom muscle car shops of the late-1960s and early-1970s, was also located in Canonsburg. Canonsburg is home to the Pittsburgh Cougars junior hockey league team.

The second-largest Fourth of July parade in the state of Pennsylvania, second only to Philadelphia, is held in Canonsburg. [4] In the weeks leading up to the parade, the town frequently gains media attention for its residents setting up folding chairs along the town's main street to stake claim to prime viewing areas. Additionally, Canonsburg is host to an annual Oktoberfest. In the television series Supernatural , the town is featured in the episode "Monster Movie," which is set in the borough during the Oktoberfest celebration.


The exact date of the first settlement near the current site of Canonsburg is unclear. Colonel John Canon, a common miller who also served as justice of the Virginia courts at Fort Dunmore (better known as Fort Pitt, now Pittsburgh), purchased some land from the state of Virginia around Chartiers Creek, sometime before May 1780. The state had claimed what is now southwestern Pennsylvania in a dispute that would not finally be settled until later in the decade. In 1781 Pennsylvania carved Washington County out of Westmoreland County, and the county seat was established at Washington. The notes of the first session of the Washington County Court during that year indicate a call for a road from Canon's mill to Pittsburgh. The road to Pittsburgh, called Pitt Street, remains in part today as an archaic and indirect route to the city. The first surviving plat of the town is from April 15, 1788. Lots were sold around Canon's property, and the emerging town took the name of Canonsburg shortly thereafter.

Original plots, as laid by Colonel John Canon. Canonsburg plots John Canon.jpg
Original plots, as laid by Colonel John Canon.

Many of the participants in the Whiskey Rebellion of July 1794 were residents of present-day Washington County, which includes Canonsburg. Some of the insurrectionists are believed to have gathered in the town's Black Horse Tavern. However, records do not indicate whether any Canonsburg residents participated in any of the violent acts which occurred during the rebellion. [5]

The town was the site of the first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains, Jefferson College. Founded in 1802, it was the eleventh such institution in the United States. The Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Kappa Psi fraternities were both founded at Jefferson College. Phi Gamma Delta, of whom President Calvin Coolidge was a member, was founded in 1848. Phi Kappa Psi, of whom President Woodrow Wilson and over 100 U.S. Congressmen claim membership, was founded in 1852. The school would go on to become Washington & Jefferson College in nearby Washington.

For generations, Jefferson College financially supported Canonsburg by accounting for much of its income. However, in 1868, the college was moved to nearby Washington, leaving behind empty college rooming and boarding houses, known as the "forts". Canonsburg's largest financial draw having left, it would take the introduction of the railroad system to return the city to its former glory. The railroad system, on its way from Mansfield (Carnegie) to Washington (See: Chartiers Branch), was fully operational, as scheduled, on May 18, 1871. The first scheduled train departed from the Washington depot carrying "borough authorities, the committee of arrangement and reception, as well as Rankin’s Cornet Band and a number of…prominent citizens who had been invited to join the excursion." They traveled to Mansfield, where they waited for the special to arrive from Pittsburgh. The special had 12 coaches pulled by two locomotives and was filled with a large number of dignitaries, most especially the mayors of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. The special then made it down the newly laid tracks, passing stations full of spectators to cheer on the train. Canonsburg had a large crowd of supporters, and many people climbed aboard the train to ride along to Washington. There, led by Pittsburgh's Great Western Band, the crowd marched to Town Hall for a round of speeches. The Washington Reporter editor pronounced the day "a grand success."

In 1911, South Canonsburg was annexed.

On August 26th, 1911, 26 people were killed in the Canonsburg Opera House disaster.

In 1903 the Washington and Canonsburg Railway Company linked the two towns with a trolley line. The company was bought by the Philadelphia Company in 1906, later becoming part of the Pittsburgh Railway Company, linking through to Pittsburgh as part of their interurban service in 1909. [6] The line closed on August 29, 1953, with the last three trolley cars travelling south through Canonsburg to the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in 1954 shortly before the track was removed.

The Canonsburg Armory, Hawthorne School and Roberts House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [7]

Uranium mill

The Standard Chemical Company operated a radium refining mill from 1911 to 1922 on a 19-acre (77,000 m2) plot of land. From 1930 to 1942 the company purified uranium ore. Marie Curie was invited to the United States in 1921 and was given an honorary degree by the University of Pittsburgh, and one gram of radium.

From 1942 to 1957, Vitro Manufacturing Company refined uranium and other rare metals from various ores and onsite residues, government-owned uranium ore, process concentrates, and scrap materials. The government bought the uranium ore from Vitro and used it in the Manhattan Project. Waste from incomplete extraction and other metallurgical processes accumulated during the site's long history. About 11,600 tons of mill tailings were moved to railroad property near Blairsville between 1956 and 1957. After the closure of Vitro, the site was used by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The site was then used by the Canonsburg Pottery Company, operated by the George Family, for land and clay.

The Canonsburg mill site was designated in the 1978 Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act as eligible for federal funds for clean up. It was the only uranium mill east of the Mississippi River to receive funds. In a $48 million cleanup project, the mill site and 163 nearby properties in Canonsburg were remediated. Residual radioactivity was consolidated into a covered, clay-lined cell at the Canonsburg mill site, which is fenced and posted.


Canonsburg is located at 40°15′43″N80°11′6″W / 40.26194°N 80.18500°W / 40.26194; -80.18500 (40.262012, −80.185030). [8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2), all land. Canonsburg Lake, a recreational lake, lies directly east of the town.

Canonsburg has four borders, including Cecil Township to the north and northeast, North Strabane Township to the east and south, Houston to the southwest, and Chartiers Township to the west and northwest.


Historical population
1820 440
1830 79280.0%
1840 687−13.3%
1850 627−8.7%
1860 6503.7%
1870 641−1.4%
1880 6999.0%
1890 2,113202.3%
1900 2,71428.4%
1910 3,89143.4%
1920 10,632173.2%
1930 12,55818.1%
1940 12,5990.3%
1950 12,072−4.2%
1960 11,877−1.6%
1970 11,439−3.7%
1980 10,459−8.6%
1990 9,200−12.0%
2000 8,607−6.4%
2010 8,9924.5%
2020 9,7358.3%
2021 (est.)9,677 [3] −0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census [9]

As of the census [10] of 2000, there were 8,607 people, 3,809 households, and 2,285 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,703.5 people per square mile (1,432.4/km2). There were 4,144 housing units at an average density of 1,783.1 per square mile (689.7/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 91.01% White, 6.53% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 1.50% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.72% of the population.

There were 3,809 households, out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 34.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the borough the population was spread out, with 20.3% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 87.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $31,184, and the median income for a family was $42,793. Males had a median income of $32,458 versus $22,733 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $17,469. About 5.8% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.5% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.


Fourth of July Parade

A view from Pike Street in the Canonsburg Fourth of July parade. Canonsburg-fourth-of-july-parade-float.jpg
A view from Pike Street in the Canonsburg Fourth of July parade.

The Canonsburg Fourth of July Parade is a parade through Canonsburg celebrating Independence Day. It is the second-largest Fourth of July parade in Pennsylvania, second only to Philadelphia, despite Canonsburg having only 8,992 residents. [4] 50,000 to 60,000 people usually attend. [4] [11] The parade starts on Morganza Road and runs down the length of Pike Street, heading westward, for approximately 1.5 miles.

The parade begins at 10:00 am on the Fourth of July. Parade members include high school and other marching bands from Washington County and the surrounding areas, local sports teams and cheerleaders of all ages, fire trucks, emergency responders, shriners, unicyclists, jugglers, pipers, polka bands, various church groups, members of the VFW, local politicians, and the mayor of Canonsburg. Some groups throw candy to the children along the parade route, and others pass out water bottles.

After the parade, the day's festivities continue with food, concerts, events in Canonsburg Town Park, and family entertainment throughout the day. [12] The day ends with fireworks launched near Canon-McMillan Memorial Stadium. [13]

The parade is perhaps regionally most famous for the long-standing tradition of enthusiasts placing chairs, benches, and beach chairs along the parade route to reserve their seats, sometimes a week or more ahead of the parade. This has caused controversy among some residents and business owners, but the tradition continues to this day. [11] The seat saving ritual has attracted the attention of CNN, Jay Leno, and David Letterman. [14]

Black Horse Tavern

Black Horse Tavern Black Horse Tavern Canonsburg.jpg
Black Horse Tavern

Black Horse Tavern was founded in 1794, [15] on the road between Budd's Ferry on the Youghiogheny River to McFarlen's Ferry on Monongahela River. [16] Some sources identify the Black Horse Tavern as the birthplace of the Whiskey Rebellion. [17] Other sources are less certain on the role of the tavern in the rebellion, ascribing the tavern's prominent role in the Whiskey Rebellion to "local tradition." [16] By 1795, a "nailing business" was started at the location. [15] In 1910, the remains of the tavern were removed to make room for the new Canonsburg High School. [18]

Notable people

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allegheny County, Pennsylvania</span> County in Pennsylvania, United States

Allegheny County is located in the southwest of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2020 census, the population was 1,250,578, making it the state's second-most populous county, following Philadelphia County. The county seat is Pittsburgh. Allegheny County is included in the Pittsburgh, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and in the Pittsburgh Designated Market Area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Washington County, Pennsylvania</span> County in Pennsylvania, United States

Washington County is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 207,820. Its county seat is Washington.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">North Braddock, Pennsylvania</span> Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

North Braddock is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States. North Braddock was organized from a part of Braddock Township in 1897. The borough prides itself in being the "Birth Place of Steel" as the home of Andrew Carnegie's Edgar Thomson Steel Works that opened in 1875. North Braddock is a suburb 11 miles (18 km) east of Pittsburgh with a 15-minute travel time to the city. The borough is located in the valley along the Monongahela River, and is made up of three jurisdictional voting wards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bedford, Pennsylvania</span> Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Bedford is a borough in and the county seat of Bedford County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It is located 102 miles (164 km) west of Harrisburg, the state capital, and 107 miles (172 km) east of Pittsburgh. Bedford's population was 2,861 at the 2020 census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Somerset, Pennsylvania</span> Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Somerset is a borough in and the county seat of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 6,046 at the 2020 census. The borough is surrounded by Somerset Township. Somerset is just off Exit 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Somerset is the principal city of the Somerset, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area, and is also one of two cities, the other being Johnstown, that make up the larger Johnstown-Somerset, PA Combined Statistical Area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chartiers Township, Pennsylvania</span> Township in Pennsylvania, United States

Chartiers Township is a township in Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 8,632 at the 2020 census. Along with the borough of Houston the township makes up the Chartiers-Houston School District. It is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donora, Pennsylvania</span> Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Donora is a borough in Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States, approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Washington, Pennsylvania</span> City in Pennsylvania, United States

Washington is a city in and the county seat of Washington County, Pennsylvania. A part of the Greater Pittsburgh area in the southwestern part of the state, the city is home to Washington & Jefferson College and Pony League baseball. The population was 13,176 at the 2020 census.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Ross (Pennsylvania politician)</span> American politician

James Ross was a lawyer who represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate from 1794 to 1803. During his tenure, he served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate from March to December 1799.

David Bradford (1762–1808) was a successful lawyer and deputy attorney-general for Washington County, Pennsylvania in the late 18th century. He was infamous for his association with the Whiskey Rebellion, and his fictionalized escape to the Spanish-owned territory of West Florida with soldiers at his tail. He was later pardoned by President John Adams for his actions. Today, his family's home in Washington, Pennsylvania is a national landmark and museum.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John McMillan (missionary)</span>

John McMillan was a prominent Presbyterian minister and missionary in Western Pennsylvania when that area was part of the American Frontier. He founded the first school west of the Allegheny Mountains, which is now known as John McMillan's Log School. He is one of the founders of Washington & Jefferson College.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Washington City Transit</span>

Freedom Transit is the designation for the public transit agency providing bus services in the urbanized portion of central and northern Washington County, Pennsylvania. Local bus routes are designed to serve Washington, Pennsylvania, an edge city and a key location of both business parks and shopping amenities. The "Metro" bus route provides access from the Washington County suburbs to Downtown Pittsburgh. The Metro bus route makes stops in Washington, Houston and Canonsburg, serving central and northern Washington County, traveling ten times per weekday in each direction to Downtown Pittsburgh. The Metro service also stops at designated park and ride locations. More limited bus service is offered on Saturdays, with service to the South Hills "T" Transit Center.

Literary societies at Washington & Jefferson College played an important role in its academics and student life, especially during the 18th and 19th century. Washington & Jefferson College is a private liberal arts college in Washington, Pennsylvania, which is located in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The college traces its origin to three log cabin colleges in Washington County, Pennsylvania established by three frontier clergymen in the 1780s: John McMillan, Thaddeus Dod, and Joseph Smith. These early schools eventually grew into two competing colleges, with Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania being chartered in 1802 and Washington College being chartered in 1806. These two schools merged in 1865 to form Washington & Jefferson College.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roberts House (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania)</span> Historic house in Pennsylvania, United States

The Roberts House is a historic building in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is designated as a historic residential landmark/farmstead by the Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation. The Greater Canonsburg Heritage Society erected a historical marker near the house, which is the last remaining structure from Jefferson College.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Washington & Jefferson College</span>

The history of Washington & Jefferson College begins with three log cabin colleges established by three frontier clergymen in the 1780s: John McMillan, Thaddeus Dod, and Joseph Smith. The three men, all graduates from the College of New Jersey, came to present-day Washington County to plant churches and spread Presbyterianism to what was then the American frontier beyond the Appalachian Mountains. John McMillan, the most prominent of the three founders because of his strong personality and longevity, came to the area in 1775 and built his log cabin college in 1780 near his church in Chartiers. Thaddeus Dod, known as a keen scholar, built his log cabin college in Lower Ten Mile in 1781. Joseph Smith taught classical studies in his college, called "The Study" at Buffalo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">City of Washington–Washington & Jefferson College relations</span>

The relationship between the City of Washington, Pennsylvania, and Washington & Jefferson College spans over two centuries, dating to the founding of both the city and the college in the 1780s. The relationship between the town and college were strong enough that the citizens of Washington offered the college a $50,000 donation in 1869 in a successful attempt to lure the Washington & Jefferson College trustees to select Washington over nearby Canonsburg as the consolidated location of the college. The relationship was strained through the latter half of the 20th century, however, as the college pursued an expansion policy that clashed with the residential neighborhood. The college's frustrations grew after preservationists unsuccessfully attempted to pass laws prohibiting the college from demolishing certain buildings that were listed on the East Washington Historic District. Relations were so bad that residents and college officials engaged in a shouting match at a meeting. Local preservationists also unsuccessfully tried to block the demolition of Hays Hall, which had been condemned.

John Canon was an American Revolutionary soldier, miller, judge, and businessman, who founded three towns, including Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, which bears his name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John McMillan's Log School</span> Log building in Pennsylvania, United States

John McMillan's Log School is a landmark log building in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania that was the site of John McMillan's frontier Latin school during the 1780s. It is a symbol of Canonsburg and Canonsburg's educational tradition. In 1930, The Pittsburgh Press said that the building was "viewed by the pioneers with even more reverence than Pittsburgh now view the towering Cathedral of Learning in Oakland." It is one of the oldest buildings in Western Pennsylvania. It is the "oldest educational building west of the Allegheny Mountains."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black Horse Tavern (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania)</span> Building in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania

Black Horse Tavern was a historic tavern in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.


  1. Ewing, Blaine, ed. (1903), Canonsburg Centennial – Eighteen Hundred Two, Nineteen Hundred Two, Pittsburgh Printing Co., retrieved August 7, 2010
  2. "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 27, 2022.
  3. 1 2 Bureau, US Census. "City and Town Population Totals: 2020-2021". US Census Bureau. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  4. 1 2 3 "KDKA 7/2/2008". Archived from the original on October 20, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  5. Grefenstette, Jerry (2009). Canonsburg. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN   978-0-7385-6533-0.
  6. Grefenstette, Jerry (2009). Canonsburg – Images of America. Arcadia Publishing. p. 46. ISBN   978-0-7385-6533-0 . Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  7. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  8. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  9. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  10. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  11. 1 2 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Squatters spark controversy in Canonsburg" 7/2/2002
  12. "The Pittsburgh Channel 7/4/2009". Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  13. "WPXI 7/1/2009". Archived from the original on July 4, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  14. Observer-Reporter 6/30/2009 [ permanent dead link ]
  15. 1 2 Crumrine, Boyd (1882). "Canonsburg Borough". History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. L. H. Leverts & Co. p. 601.
  16. 1 2 Jerry Allan Clouse; Louis M. Waddell; Bruce D. Bomberger (1994). The Whiskey Rebellion: Southwestern Pennsylvania's frontier people test the American Constitution. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. p. 63.
  17. Philip W. Goetz, ed. (1983). "Canonsburg". The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 517. In 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion (an uprising of farmers against excise tax on distilled liquor) began there [Canonsburg] at the Black Hose Tavern.
  18. Herron, Jr., James T. (May 2000). "Canonsburg School Board Minutes, Nov. 3, 1910 and Jan. 3, 1911". Jefferson College Times. Jefferson College Historical Society. In 1910 the Canonsburg school board accepted his [Dave McCartney] bid to tear down what was left of the old Black Horse Tavern. The school district was planning to build a high school on the site. He signed the proposal with his mark.
  19. Wilson, Earl (November 27, 1969). "Small Towns Have Produced Many Big Stars". The Milwaukee Sentinel. pp. A33. Retrieved May 22, 2015.[ permanent dead link ]
  20. "Gen. Hughes Dead". The Daily Notes. Canonsburg, PA. October 30, 1909. p. 1 via
  21. Archaeology Magazine
  22. Behe, Regis (May 2, 2008). "New book detailing celebrities' ties to Pittsburgh yields surprising facts". Trib Live.
  23. Bendel, Joe (December 29, 2017). "Canonsburg product Dorian O'Daniel will face Alabama in the College Football Playoff". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 21, 2019.

Further reading