Washington, Pennsylvania


40°10"30' N / 80°15"02' W

~ Introduction ~

( Click the arrow in the buttons below for pronunciation. )

Washington  ,  is a city in and the county seat of Washington County, Pennsylvania, about thirty miles south-southwest of Pittsburgh.

The town was incorporated as a borough on 13 February 1810, and became a city of the third class (based upon population) in 1924.

~ Maps ~

Washington, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Map: Copyright ©2015 by Marshall J. KATZ

1784 Town Plan: Washington, PA
1897 Map: Washington, PA
Township Map: Washington County, PA
Aerial View: Washington, PA
Street Map: Washington, PA

~ History ~

Delaware Indian chief Tangooqua (Delaware Indian pictured), commonly known as "Catfish", had a camp on a branch of Chartiers Creek, in what is now part of the city of Washington. The French labeled the area "Wissameking", meaning "catfish place", as early as 1757. The area of Washington was settled by many immigrants from Scotland and the north of Ireland, along with settlers from eastern and central parts of colonial Virginia. It was first settled by colonists around 1768.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an act on 28 March 1781, establishing the County of Washington and naming "Catfish Camp" as the place for holding the first election. The county was named in honor of General George Washington.

David Hodge, of Cumberland County, laid out a town a little to the north of "Catfishes Camp," which was beside the small stream crossing the foot of S. Main Street—named on old maps as the Wissameking. The new town was called at first Dandridge Town, then Bassett Town and lastly Washington when John and William Hodge, sons of David Hodge, had replotted and started to sell lots again. The original part of Washington was laid out first by David Hodge, on 13 October 1781, and then later by his two sons, John and William, on 4 November 1784 for two tracts of land called Grand Cairo and CatFish camp.

The name of the town was permanently changed to Washington on 4 November 1784, the date at which the second plot was sold, in honor of General George Washington.

Washington, Pennsylvania, was the center for the "Whiskey Rebellion" of 1791 (pictured), which was one of the first open rebellions against the new U.S. government and Constitution.

The rebellion was centered around a tax being imposed on whiskey distillation in the region. The house of David Bradford (pictured), one of the leaders of the rebellion, is now a museum devoted to the Whiskey Rebellion, located on South Main Street of the city.

In August 1875, construction began of the Waynesburg and Washington Railroad (pictured), conceived by John Day in 1874 and chartered in 1875. Passenger services ended in 1929, conversion to standard gauge followed in 1944, when it was renamed the Waynesburg Secondary. Freight services ended in 1976, although part of the line still survives for access to a coal mine.

The discovery of oil and natural gas among the Washington oil field caused boom period from the 1800s to the early 1900s. James B. Wilson chartered The Washington Electric Street Railways in 1889 with construction beginning in November 1890. The first line was built from the Waynesburg and Washington Narrow Gauge station to Wilson Orchard, just north of the present day site of the Washington Hospital.

In 1903 the Washington and Canonsburg Railway Company linked the two towns with a trolley line (pictured).

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.

The line closed on 29 August 1953. A short section of the line and a number of trolley cars are preserved at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, north of the city.

The city of Washington (downtown pictured) is currently working to improve the social conditions of the community through a $14-million street-scape improvement project that will significantly improve the infrastructure of downtown Washington. Along with the infrastructure improvements, Millcraft Industries has announced a $100 million revitalization project for downtown Washington.

As part of the revitalization, Land America was scheduled to build a new 7 story office building at the corner of Beau and Franklin streets in Washington. Land America was expected to take about 100,000 square feet (10,000 m2) of the seven-story, 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) building for its corporate headquarters, and to employ up to 1,000 people in the building upon completion in December 2006. With the bankruptcy of Land America in 2008, this project was canceled.

Other aspects of the Crossroads Project include street level retail, residential lofts, an 80-room hotel, and an outdoor park and amphitheater. In addition, the Carl Walker Construction Co. will build an $12 million, 850-space parking garage between Chestnut and Beau streets to accommodate the office building.

Today, the population was 13,663 inhabitants (2010) and is currently revitalizing itself. The Chamber of Commerce and a Renaissance organization are active studying ways to improve the town and environs. One constant has always been the resilience of all of Washington's citizens.

~ Washington and Jefferson College ~

Washington is home to Washington & Jefferson College (pictured in 1909), a small, co-educational private liberal arts college founded in 1781. Located in downtown Washington, the college now enrolls over 1,500 students.

It is noted as an excellent pre-med and pre-law institution due to its fine liberal arts curriculum and is considered a good preparatory school for graduate level studies in general, enjoying ranking among the top 100 Liberal Arts Schools in the US.

~ Washington County Airport ~

The Washington County Airport (pictured), located five miles southwest of the Washington business district, is a dynamic economic engine and regional aviation asset.

The Airport (KAFJ) is situated on 401 acres and is home to 85 aircraft, 34 T-hangars, 10 corporate hangars and 7 aviation businesses. With a 5,004 foot runway, a parallel taxiway system, an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) and an Instrument Landing System (200-3/4). The Airport has all-weather capabilities to accommodate all types of corporate and general aviation aircraft year around.

~ Pennsylvania Trolley Museum ~

The streetcar, or "trolley," played a vital role in the growth of American cities and Western Pennsylvania. With its high-speed, efficient transportation, people could live farther from their workplace than if they had to walk or rely on horse-drawn cars. Many of today's thriving suburban communities owe their existence to the streetcar.

Streetcars served America through two world wars and a depression, but affluence and automobiles caused the end of the Trolley Era and a greatly diminished role for public transportation. As streetcars were phased out, groups formed to preserve trolleys with the goal of operating them for future generations. Washington is fortunate to be the home of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, with many examples of trolleys used over time in the areas surrounding Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

~ Early Jewish Settlers ~

Nathan SAMUELS came to Washington, Pa. c. 1877 and was the first Jew to make his home in Washington until his death in 1911.

In 1907, there were 200 Jews in the Washington Jewish community and by 1927, their numbers increased to 575.

In 2015, Washington has a small community of Jewish residents, a rabbi, synagogue and cemetery.

Sources (portions):
American Jewish Yearbook; Jewish Population Of The United States
American Jewish Yearbook: 1927 Westen Pennsylvania Cities Jewish Population Greater than 100
City of Washington, Pa.
History of Washington County, Pa, by B. Crumrine, F. Ellis and A.N. Hungerford (1882)
History of Washington County, Pa, by E. R. Forrest, Vol. 1 (1926)
Midge (Ryan) Douce
Green County Archives
Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center
The Jewish Criterion - Vol. 51 No. 22 - 25 July 1919
Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries
Wikimedia Commons

~ Notable Citizens ~

(Click the images below to view a larger image.)

Following are a few notable citizens born in Washington:

Edward Goodrich Acheson, (b. Washington, 9 March 1856), was the inventor of the Acheson process, still used to make silicon carbide (carborundum) and later a manufacturer of carborundum and graphite. Thomas Edison put him to work on 12 September 1880 in his New Jersey laboratory where he experimented making a conducting carbon to use in electric light bulbs. In 1884, he became supervisor at a plant competing to manufacture electric lamps, working on methods to produce artificial diamonds in an electric furnace. After heating a mixture of clay and coke, with a carbon arc light, he found shiny, hexagonal crystals (silicon carbide) attached to the carbon electrode. He called it carborundum. On 28 February 1893, he received a patent although a 1900 decision gave "priority broadly" to the Electric Smelting and Aluminum Company "for reducing ores and other substances by the incandescent method." He received 70 patents relating to abrasives, graphite products, reduction of oxides, and refractories. He died on 6 July 1931.

Maj. Gen. Absalom Baird (b. Washington, 20 August 1824), was a career United States Army officer who distinguished himself as a Union Army general in the American Civil War. Baird received the Medal of Honor for his military actions. He graduated from US Military Academy in 1849, ranked ninth in a class of 43. From 1852 to 1859, he was a mathematics instructor at West Point and from 1859 to 1861, he served in Texas and Virginia.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, promoted to Brevet Captain, First Battle of Bull Run under Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler. He rose through the ranks through Brigadier General 28 April 1862. In the Atlanta Campaign, Baird led a brigade charge in the Battle of Jonesborough which earned him the Medal of Honor leading his division in Sherman's March to the Sea and Carolinas Campaign. On 13 March 1865, President Andrew Johnson nominated Baird for appointment as brevet Major General in the regular U.S. Army, confirmed 23 July 1866. Baird was mustered out on September 1, 1866 and he died on 14 June 1905 at age 80.

Rebecca Harding Davis (b. Washington, 24 June 1831), was an author and journalist. She is deemed a pioneer of literary realism in American literature.

She graduated valedictorian from Washington Female Seminary in Pennsylvania. Her most important literary work is "Life in the Iron Mills," published in the April 1861 edition of the Atlantic Monthly, which quickly made her an established female writer. Her works include authoring books, short fiction and essays. Throughout her lifetime, Davis sought to effect social change for blacks, women, Native Americans, immigrants, and the working class, by intentionally writing about the plight of these marginalized groups in the 19th century.

She died on 29 September 1910 at age 79.

Emerson Hart (b. Washington, 21 July 1969), is a songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and producer.

Hart is the lead singer and songwriter of the alternative rock band "Tonic" whose first release, Lemon Parade, was a multi-platinum success. In 2003, "Tonic" received two Grammy nominations—one for best Rock Performance by Duo or Group with Vocal for "Take Me As I Am", and the second for Best Rock Album. Hart also co-wrote the 2005 Ingram Hill hit, "Almost Perfect", which reached the top 25 on the Hot AC chart. He also co-wrote the theme song, "Generation", for the NBC drama American Dreams in 2002. He earned an ASCAP award for "Best Theme Song of Television" in 2003. His songs reflect life experiences, and his 2007's "Cigarettes and Gasoline" dealt more with rocky relationships and personal struggles; his latest release "Beauty in Disrepair" reflects picking up the pieces and moving on, learning, and happiness re-evolving.

John S. Kanzius (b. Washington, 1 March 1944), was an inventor, radio and TV engineer, one-time station owner and ham radio operator (Call Sign K3TUP), later living in Erie, Pennsylvania. He invented a method that, he said, could treat virtually all forms of cancer, with no side effects, and without the need for surgery or medication. He also demonstrated a device that generated flammable hydrogen-containing gas from salt-water-solution by the use of radio waves. In the media this was dubbed "burning salt water." Both effects involve the use of his radio frequency transmitter. Kanzius, an autodidact, stated that he was motivated to research the subject of cancer treatment by his own experiences undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, passing sue to B-cell leukemia with complications from pneumonia, without seeing FDA approval and commercialization of his invention. He died on 18 February 2009 at age 64.

Colonel Walter Joseph "Joe" Marm, Jr. (b. Washington, 8 April 1915), is a retired United States Army officer and a recipient of the United States military highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in the Vietnam War.

Marm joined the Army from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and by , was serving as a Second Lieutenant in Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). On 14 November 1965, during the Battle of Ia Drang, he single-handed attacked an enemy position, suffering severe wounds in the process. Marm survived his wounds and was subsequently promoted to First Lieutenant. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, on 19 December 1966, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Marm reached the rank of Colonel before retiring from the Army in 1995.

Philo McGiffin (b. Washington, 29 September 1959), was a late 19th-century naval officer later serving in Chinese service as a naval adviser during the First Sino-Japanese War. Although primarily skilled as an instructor and administrator, he proved a talented tactician during the Battle of the Yalu, as well as the first American to command a modern battleship in wartime.

Arriving in China soon after and seeking employment, McGiffin was able to earn a commission as a Lieutenant in the newly modernizing Imperial Chinese Navy under Li Hung-chang in early 1885. In the midst on the Sino-French War, McGiffin was said to have captured a French gunboat in June before the end of the war that same year. A professor at the Chinese Naval College in Tientsin (Tianjin) for the next nine years, McGiffin was also said to have served as naval constructor supervising the construction of four ironclad warships in Great Britain before the First Sino-Japanese War in August 1894.

In addition to several works which discuss his actual exploits, McGiffin is memorialized in the comic novel The "Return of Philo T. McGiffin," written by Naval Academy graduate David Poyer. The book tells of the misadventures of a namesake plebe, Philo T. McGiffin, during his first year at the Academy. The Hong Kong Maritime Museum displays a number of McGiffin's personal belongings including: his uniform jacket from the Battle of Yalu River, sword and porcelain collection. Severely wounded during the battle however, he returned to the USA suffering from mental instability due to his wounds, and was eventually committed to the Post Graduate Hospital in New York City where, after tricking hospital orderlies into giving him a revolver from his trunk, he committed suicide on 11 February 1897. In 1947, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission installed a historical marker (pictured) outside the Washington County Courthouse, noting McGiffin's historic importance.

Robert John Munce (b. Washington, 1895), served as the third president of Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Munce graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in 1918 and received an AM degree in 1926 from the University of Michigan.

He became president of Suffolk University in 1954 and had a distinguished career during his service until retirement in 1960.

He died on 30 April 1975.

Gene Steratore (b. Washington, 8 February 1963), is a football official in the National Football League (NFL). In 2003, he entered the league as a field judge and was promoted to referee at the start of the 2006 season, one of two new referees for that season, following the retirements of other referees. He wears uniform number 114.

Steratore is currently one of two NFL referees who also officiate National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men's basketball games, which he has done since 1997. He was selected as the first referee to officiate a game following the 2012 NFL referee lockout on 27 September 2012, a Thursday night contest between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. The Baltimore crowd cheered Steratore and his crew as they entered the field.

He was named as referee for the NFC Championship game on 19 January 2014 in Seattle, between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. Steratore and his brother are the co-owners of Steratore Sanitary Supplies in Washington, Pa.

Sylvester Terkay (b. Washington, 4 December 1970), is a professional wrestler and mixed martial artist best known for his run in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). A 2-time NWA Zero-One U.S. Champion, he earned the honor of being named the number one Gaijin (non-Japanese wrestler) in Japan. Terkay also has the honor of being the first UPW Heavyweight Champion.

Attending North Carolina State University, he finished second in the 1992 NCAA Division I Heavyweight tournament and later became champion in 1993. Terkay had 78 pins during his college career. After training at a Pro Wrestling school, he signed to a WWE contract, but later released after spending time in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) as Sly Scraper. Then he joined Japanese pro wrestling in 2001 as "The Predator." Terkay made his MMA debut in grand fashion by knocking his opponent Mauricio da Silva out in just 13 seconds in a high profile fight and then went on to earn impressive wins. He also appeared in the movie/documentary "101 Reasons Not To Be A Pro Wrestler", where he talked about his views on the wrestling business.

Capt. Joseph Albert "Joe" Walker (b. Washington, 20 February 1921), was a NASA test pilot and member of the U.S. Air Force Man In Space Soonest spaceflight program. In 1963, he made two X-15 experimental rocket aircraft flights beyond the altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). These flights qualified Walker as an astronaut under both the rules of the U.S. Air Force and of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). During World War II, Walker flew the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter and F-5A photo aircraft (a modified P-38) on weather reconnaissance flights. Walker earned the Distinguished Flying Cross once, awarded by General Nathan Twining in July 1944 and the Air Medal with seven oak leaf clusters. After World War II, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio, as an experimental physicist. While in Cleveland, he became a test pilot, conducted icing research in flight, as well as in the NACA icing wind tunnel. He transferred to the High-Speed Flight Research Facility in Edwards, California, in 1951, serving 15 years. By the mid-1950s, he was a Chief Research Pilot.

Dennis E. Wisnosky (b. Washington, date unknown), is a consultant, writer and former Chief Architect and Chief Technical Officer of the US DoD Business Mission Area (BMA) within the Office of Business Transformation. He is known as one of the creators and initiators of the Integrated Definition (IDEFs) language, a standard for modeling and analysis in management and business improvement efforts. He joined the US Air Force Materials Laboratory in 1971 as head of computer and information services. In 1976, became manager of its ICAM program. In 1986, founded Wizdom Systems as chief executive officer. In August 2006, appointed Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of the Department of Defense (DoD) Business Mission Area. In 2013, he left DoD to lead the standards implementation of the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO), a joint effort of The Enterprise Data Management Council with the Object Management Group. His honors include, in May 1997, Fortune magazine recognized Wisnosky as "one of the five heroes of manufacturing", the Federal 100 Award in 2007, the Award for Excellence in Government Leadership in 2012 and more.

Alan David "Bud" Yorkin (b. Washington, 30 May 1918), is a film/television producer, director, writer and actor. In 1954, he was producer of NBC's The Tony Martin Show; In 1956, he was producer/director of Tennessee Ernie Ford's show; In 1958, he joined writer/producer Norman Lear to form Tandem Productions, producing several motion pictures and television specials with United Artists and Warner Bros; In 1958, directed and produced the TV special "An Evening With Fred Astaire," winning nine Emmy Awards, and in the 1970s, produced many hit sitcoms (All in the Family, Maude, Good Times and Sanford and Son). He formed Bud Yorkin Productions and his first sitcom was the unsuccessful Sanford and Son spin-off sitcom, Grady. In 1976, he formed TOY Productions with Saul Turteltaub and Bernie Orenstein, to produce What's Happening and Carter Country. In 1979, TOY Productions was acquired by Columbia Pictures Television. In 1999, he and Lear were awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award for excellence and innovation in works enhancing the perception of women through television. In 2002, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. His film directing credits include The Thief Who Came to Dinner, Divorce American Style and Inspector Clouseau (film) of the Pink Panther series.

Sources (portions):
Edward G. Acheson - Wikipedia
Maj. Gen. Absalom Baird - Wikipedia
Rebecca Harding Davis - Wikipedia
Emerson Hart - allmusic.com
John S. Kanzius - Wikipedia
Colonel Walter Joseph "Joe" Marm, Jr. - Wikipedia
Philo McGiffin - Wikipedia
Robert J. Munce - argentaimages.com
Gene Steratore - en.academic.ru
Sylvester Terkay - Wikipedia
Capt. Joseph A. Walker - Wikipedia
Dennis E. Wisnosky - Wikipedia
Alan David "Bud" Yorkin - allmovie.com

This page is hosted at no cost to the public by JewishGen, Inc., a non-profit corporation.
If you feel there is a benefit to you in accessing  this site, your JewishGen-erosity is appreciated.

Compiled and created by:
Marshall J. KATZ, USA
with assistance from:

Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center
The Jewish Criterion - Vol. 51 No. 22 - 25 July 1919
Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries
The Jewish Criterion - Vol. 104 No. 20 - 15 September 1944
Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries
Wikimedia Commons
and the following

JewishGen members/descendants and
contributors of Washington Jewish families:


Updated: 19 December 2021
by rLb

Copyright ©2015
Marshall J. KATZ
All rights reserved

Back to KehilaLinks KehilaLinks Top of page JewishGen Back to JewishGen

Top of Page

Visitors since: 01 February 2015