The Collier Neighborhood
In 1865, the Nesbitt family sold the majority of their land to Peter Hormel. Mr. Hormel became the main founder of the area that would eventually be called Beechmont. On his land he started a successful coal mine, the Beechmont Coal Company, which was especially known for its rich amount of coal. Not only was the coal mine an active business in the area but the Pittsburgh, Chartiers and Youghiogheny railroad was also a large functioning business. The Oakdale Station was created and would carry coal from the Beechmont Company as well as passengers and limestone. The train would stop briefly along other villages within the area. The Beechmont Coal Company remained under the leadership of Mr. Hormel until it was sold in 1892 to John C. McMichael. It then became the Beechmont-McMichael Coal Company which would survive until 1933 when Mr. McMichael died and the company was dissolved.
Ewings & Walkers
The first families to settle in the area now called Collier Township were the Ewings and Walkers.
James Ewing was born in Cecil County, Maryland about 1730 and immigrated to this area in 1770. His claim of 1,000 acres extended from Chartiers Borough, now Carnegie Borough, to Walkers Mill where he built the first gristmill on Robinson Run. James Ewing was a Presbyterian and is also identified with the early history of the Montour Presbyterian Church.
Gabriel Walker, born in 1744, and Isaac Walker, born in 1746, in Lancaster, PA immigrated to the area in 1772 where they purchased their “Tomahawk Claim” of 2,000 acres west of Walkers Mills. Isaac built his log cabin in Walkers Mills while Gabriel built his in an area called Hays which we believe is located in the valley below Nike Site Road
Raid on Gabriel’s Log Cabin
It is in this area that tells the story of a raid in September 1782 on Gabriel’s log cabin by about 25 Indians. Five of the Walker children who were working in the fields were captured. Gabriel, Mrs. Walker and two small children, along with an apprentice named William Harkins, escaped to the fort of James Ewing. After pillaging and burning down the log cabin, the Indians attacked Ewing’s Fort where they killed the two youngest children. They fled with the three remaining children…two girls and a boy. A group of men pursued them to the Ohio River but they were able to get away. The children were held captive in an English camp in Canada for twenty-one months and were returned to Philadelphia as repatriated prisoners of war.
In 1808, William Ewing married Jane Walker, daughter of Isaac Walker. Isaac gave this log house to the couple as a wedding gift. It has been handed down through the years and the last descendant, Jane Ewing Rovensky, who married Robert. M. Grace, has lovingly handed it down to the Pioneers West Historical Society, who owns it today.
Fort Pitt is a great Collier Township neighborhood located just off the Carnegie Exit of Interstate 79.
“Fort Pitt” by the British
There was also a “Fort Pitt” built by the British in 1758 during the French and Indian War. This fort was named after William Pitt the Elder who was Secretary of State during the war and would eventually become the Prime Minister of Britain. It became the site of historic siege and its remnants can be seen in downtown Pittsburgh’s Point State Park.
Home to Local Business
Collier’s own “Fort Pitt” is not the site of this more famous landmark, but it was home to some locally famous old businesses, like Vimco Macaroni. And today, some of Collier’s best businesses and families call the neighborhood of Fort Pitt home.
View photos of Hickman, PA in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Learn about the origin of Kirwan Heights.
The second oldest of Collier Township’s “new neighborhoods,” construction in Nevillewood started in 1990 and has grown to include 535 homes.
Including town homes, quads, carriage and single family homes, as well as estate homes; the development is often best known for its championship 18-hole golf course and clubhouse on the Collier horizon.
For more information, visit Nevillewood Homes website.
Presto is the Collier neighborhood with the changing name.
Once called Beechmont, then Rosedale, that name had many issues due to mail service. There were too many families in Rosedale, with the last name of Rosedale and it was just too difficult to deliver the mail.
The name Presto developed when Mr. Peter Klein, a very influential man in the community, and his friends were in the general store thinking about new names for the town. Mr. Klein saw a ‘Presto Flour’ truck drive by and suggested the name of Presto. From that day the Collier community has been known as Presto.
Mr. Peter Klein was also a main figure in the community, owning a mine, a slaughtering/pack house and the only bus garage in Presto. His son, George, also became well known within Presto. He was one of the original ten firefighters to start the Presto Volunteer Fire Department (PVFD) in 1945.
Today Presto is one of Collier’s thriving communities and the Presto Volunteer Fire Department is still going strong!
You can’t travel far in Collier Township without hearing the name Walker. Ever wonder why?
Gabriel & Isaac Walker
In 1772 Gabriel and Isaac Walker bought land and relocated to this area. Isaac Walker built his cabin in the Walker’s Mill area while Gabriel built his in what is now known as Rennerdale. There, Gabriel made a life for himself and his family.
Attack on Gabriel’s Cabin
At that time, the area was still heavily populated with Indians; and the British paid $8 for the scalp of a white man. This payment offer led to an attack on Gabriel’s cabin in 1782. Twenty-five Indians attacked the cabin and captured five of his children. Gabriel and his servant escaped without harm as well as his wife and two of their other children. The Indians killed the two youngest boys and held capture the other three children. The three children were forced to travel with the Indians to Detroit and eventually Canada. Two years later they were released in exchange for British prisoners. During the time his children were away, Gabriel rebuilt his cabin and it remains there today, in Rennerdale, Collier Township. In Gabriel’s time, the 1800’s, Rennderdale was a quiet faming down. His offspring owned and kept most of the land.
John B. Renner
In the late 1800’s a man named John B. Renner, most likely the town’s namesake, wanted to make vast changes to the area. Mr. Renner was the Comptroller for the Pennsylvania Railroad and wanted to make Rennerdale a railroad town. He envisioned his workers living in Rennerdale with their families and making a life for themselves there. Mr. Renner’s original plan was to have a railroad run through the middle of town. The townspeople feared that it would be too noisy and might endanger the lives of their children, so the idea was nixed. Nevertheless, the community continued to grow. In 1911, the famous William T. Kerr moved into town with his family. Mr. Kerr is known for being the founding father of the Flag Day National holiday. He also wrote the first required educational text book laws for the state. Only after the end of World War II did the town of Rennerdale see development.
Today, Rennerdale is still known in Collier as one of our most quiet, peaceful neighborhoods. Do you think Mr. Gabriel Walker and his offspring would be pleased?
The Walker Family Gift That Keeps on Giving…
In 1770 James Ewing settled in what is today Collier Township and the area known as Walkers Mill.
Mr. Ewing owned a large tract of land that stretched from Carnegie to Collier Township. In 1772, when Gabriel and Isaac Walker migrated to this area from Lancaster, they purchased 2000 acres of land from Ewing. Gabriel built a cabin and farm in the Rennerdale area. His brother, Isaac set up a gristmill thus giving Walkers Mill its name.
William Ewing, the nephew of James, and Jane Walker, daughter of Isaac, were married in 1805 and were given a gift from the Ewing family. The gift was the house built by James Ewing which now became the Ewing-Walker House because of the marriage.
Modern Walkers Mill
In 1972 the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation bought the house and it remains today.
The residents who live and work in the great neighborhood of Walkers Mill still appreciate its gifts – a rich history and a beautiful location.