Reorganized and added photograph my earlier Monongahela Panorama post

I reorganized and added a photo to an earlier post I made last year

1909 Monongahela Panorama Virtual Scavenger Hunt.

As a side note, I spoke to one of the software engineers over at Gigapan and he complimented us on your participation in the comments area of the Monongahela panorama. Shortly after the panorama was posted, the image was ranked within the top 25 most interesting images on the whole Gigapan site! Gigapan is a partnership between Carnegie Mellon, Nasa and Google.

So far the Monongahela Gigapan has been viewed 4200 times and has received 43 comments.


I just found an error in my virtual scavenger hunt post of a few days ago. The image link took you to the general site but not directly to the Gigapan image I created. Sorry about that. Here is a corrected direct link to the image:

There are a few items yet to be discovered:

the third church (St. Paul’s Episcopal and St. Anthony’s have been identified)

the ladder

there are still more rain barrels to be discovered

– the factory


the Hotel Main

a gas lamp

(items which have a “strikethrough” have been found)

I also learned a few things from the people who left comments about the image over at the Gigapan website. Checkout the conversation here:

Happy hunting!

PS: A few of you must have been able to locate the Gigapan image – it is now ranked in the top 50 most interesting Gigapans out of over 30,000 on the Gigapan website. Thanks for your help!

1909 Monongahela Panorama Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Have you ever heard of a Gigapan? It is a photograph comprised of sometimes hundreds of small snapshots, all stitched together by computer software to create one incredibly detailed high resolution image. When the image is uploaded to you can view it and keep on zooming and zooming to see all kinds of interesting details.

Click this image visit my Gigapan page. (Once there, click on the panorama image on the upper right side to view it full size)

The image above is a panorama I made by stitching together two old postcards of Monongahela which were postmarked back in 1909. Click here to view the photograph over at (You have to double click the image to get it to zoom in)

The original postcard  photographs were shot from two close but separate positions on Cemetery Hill so it was impossible to get a perfect stitch (due to parallax error) but it’s good enough to make a decent panorama. Unfortunately you can no longer photograph from the same vantage point today because the view is now blocked by large trees. But this aerial picture below can give you some idea what the area looks like today:

Aerial view of Pigeon Creek in Monongahela PA, an area formerly known as Catsburg.
A modern view of the same area where the original postcard photographs were shot. Though now Monongahela, this area was once known as Catsburg. The Catsburg mine was located off the picture to the right. Click image for larger view.

Ok, lets go on a virtual scavenger hunt. To participate you need to create a account (free). Then navigate back my Gigapan Monongahela panorama page. Then zoom in and take a “snapshot” and then leave a comment on my Gigapan page.

In the panorama you will find:

(strike throughs mean the item has been identified by somebody as of Monday, March 15, 2010 – 3:19 pm)

at least two people
at least two horses or mules
train cars (aka railroad cars lol, I couldn’t remember the correct term, It’s hell getting old)
Gregg’s Warehouse (This is the warehouse for the A.M. Gregg Hardware store as seen in this 1908 photograph. You can also see an old ad and picture of the proprietor here.
– 3 and possibly 4 churches (extra credit if you can name them) (two have been found)
– a ladder
– my girlfriend’s old house
two coal mine tipples (extra credit if you name the coal mines to which they belong)
– two houses with rain barrels (one found so far)
a barn
at least 1 coal barge
another barge (not necessarily a coal barge)
a saltbox
three bridges
Whiskey Point
an outhouse
this railroad tower:
– a factory
the McGough Residence (oldest part built in 1802) was the oldest brick building in town until it was replaced by the architectural masterpiece known presently as the Monongahela Senior Center
– the Hotel Main
the village of Axleton
worker houses built by Liggett Spring and Axle Co.
– a gas lamp
River Hill

I will reveal the location of several of the items above each day until March 20, 2010 unless you all find things first. Also, don’t be afraid to snapshot something you discover that isn’t on this list.

Reminiscences by Maury Tosi

Maury Tosi
Maury Tosi

I just found a great website called Reminiscences by Maury Tosi. Maury grew up in Monongahela and graduated from Monongahela City high school in 1942. He later served in the military and became an engineer. He wrote a fascinating story about his life, much of it spent in Monongahela PA. Here is an excerpt about “Rocky Beach” in the Catsburg area of Monongahela.

One of the most popular places in the neighborhood during the middle and late ’30s was the swimming spot along the river in our neighborhood which grew into the name of “Rocky Beach.” Coal mines in the area over the years had produced a large slate pile of waste material along the river, about 800′ long, 300′ wide and 30-40′ high. It screened off the river from the Pennsylvania RR tracks and Main Street.The size of the pile over many years had produced internal heat and spontaneous combustion, leading to a smoldering of the slate and coal refuse which slowly smoldered into a clinker called “red-dog.” This was commonly used at that time for rural road bases instead of the crushed stone used today.

The beach was about 50′ wide between the slate pile and the river, and the erosion of small particles from the side of the slate pile made a beach covering that was comfortable to walk on, or to sunbathe on a towel or blanket. With the many young unemployed during this time, the beach became an escape for whole families on hot sunny days. Every one walked to the beach. Gradually improvements were made to clear up the rocky beach, and the stones were used to build various walls at the back of the beach.

The river here was a gradual slope for 10-15′ and then dropped quickly to 10-15′ deep in the river channel. A floating platform was built a little off-shore in the deeper water, and a diving board was added. It was a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon. Old inner tubes of all sizes were commonly used as a way to float on the water.

I highly recommend reading Maury’s Reminiscences. There are plenty of pictures and other interesting stories about Monongahela and the people who lived there in the 20th century. I would like to speak with him sometime. Does anybody know Maury or how I can contact him? If so, leave a message for me in the comments section. Thanks!


Catsburg Map
Catsburg Map

There is a very old section of Monongahela formerly known as Catsburg. Here is a map showing what this area looked like in 1902. (Though Catsburg was a part of Monongahela by that time.) Click on this thumbnail image to view a larger image.

I first became interested in Catsburg while reading the “Historical magazine of Monongahela’s old home coming week. Sept. 6-13, 1908” (see Resources tab above) This publication isn’t really a magazine like we think of today. It’s pages number 271 with about 20 more pages of advertisements. It was written to commemorate a city wide homecoming celebration and contains lots of history along with current events. It was written in a friendly conversational tone and is seldom dry and sometimes hilarious. Much of the historical content was written in the “first person” style. The only problem is that the writers will frequently refer to a building as “Mrs. Jenkins Home” assuming that every body knows where it is. Or, they’ll refer to areas such as Bellewood, West Monongahela (both known now as New Eagle PA) or Belvedere (somewhere out 4th street). These names were obsolete even back in 1908!.

Well one of the mysterious names that kept cropping up was Catsburg. It was always referred to as being an old part of town. My best guess is that it was the area right across Pigeon Creek along the Monongahela River.

How did Catsburg get it’s name? There are two stories of which I am aware, both from the homecoming historical magazine mentioned above. Dr. J.P. Norman, on page 159 says:

I have spoken of Pigeon Creek as the southern boundary of Monongahela in 1872, and but few dwellings could be found south of it in the place then named Catsburg. The origin of this title I was informed by whom I believe to be a citizen o the town, was due to the fact that cats, always numerous, resorted to the other side of the creek to fight their duels, settle their disputes, and eat their catnip which grew there abundantly. The tumult and noise of their battles disturbed and racked the quiet of the citizens and so they called it Cattsburg.

The second version can be found on page 229 of the magazine:

When Williamsport [a previous name of Monongahela] was laid out in 1811, the widow, Biddie Caldwell and her daughter were the only people residing on the plot now known as Catsburg. These two were always fighting, so the people called them cat and kittens, hence the name Catsburg originated.

Both explanations sound plausable to me but I lean toward the second version. What do you think? Anyways, it would be cool to find the location of Biddie’s house. (I wonder how I would go about that.)

In the magazine, Catsburg seems to be noted mainly for the Catsburg Schoolhouse and the Catsburg Mine. I’ll write about the mine now and save the subject of the schoolhouse for another day.

Here is a detail of the earliest map I can find showing the Catsburg area:

catsburg mine detail

It is easy to spot the mine and the tracks leading down to the tipple on the river. I believe the Catsburg Mine was founded by Lewis Staib.

Here is a close up of the 1902 map showing the area around the Catsburg tipple:

Company homes exist today in the same spot as those depicted in the drawing above. I am assuming these are the same buildings however note that there are differences. The drawing does not show porches, it also shows four buildings vs five buildings shown below:

Mine waste between company houses and the tipple:

This is what the Catsburg Coal Co. tipple looked like in 1907:

1907 catsburg tipple postcard

The photo above says Catsburg Coal Tipple No 1. Was there another one?

Here is another photo of the Catsburg tipple:

Catsburg tipple red

It looks like there was another structure of some sort further up the river. The following is an image showing the Catsburg tipple in the background. Pigeon creek is shown on the right:

catsburg tipple, barges and pigeon creek

Here is what remains of the Catsburg tipple today:

Click here to view a satellite image of this area. It is fun to note the changes that have occurred over the years. To read more about the history of the Catsburg mine and the family that owned it visit

And finally the official city of Monongahela website cites the following story:

Visitors were frequent to the city. One who made his mark in the literary world was Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), who made a trip up the Monongahela in 1891. While on board the boat “The New Dominion”, Captain J.S. Moorhead told Twain that Monongahela proper held an area called Catsburg. Twain, a lover of cats, decided the town “wasn’t half bad”.


UPDATE! Read about the area known as “Rocky Beach” – a popular swimming hole near the slate dump in Catsburg.