Town of McCandless: Early History

American Indians

The history of the North Hills and McCandless began with the American Indians. The Delawares, or Original People, were one of the first tribes known to the European settlers in this area. These Native Americans were members of the Iroquois Nation. They navigated paths and waterways throughout Western Pennsylvania, living in villages and hunting for food. Intricate details about the lives of these members are limited; however, artifacts have been found in areas of McCandless, proving their existence in our Town.

George Washington and Christopher GistGeorge Washington: The First Written Description of McCandless

Conceivably, the first written description of McCandless came from Christopher Gist, guide of George Washington, in 1753. He described both men leaving Venango Trail and following the Pine Creek to Etna, which makes Mr. Gist and Washington some of McCandless' earliest visitors. This would not be Washington's last encounter with McCandless, though. (Pictured are George Washington and Christopher Gist)


During the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid in Continental script, which quickly depreciated in value. The state then enacted legislation to make up for this depreciation by devising a plan to sell the land it had acquired from the Indians. It was then known as the Depreciation Lands, which included the North Hills at the time. The soldiers either redeemed their depreciation certificates for cash or used them to buy land. The Indians did not give up their land easily, however. Unrest continued in the area until the Indians were defeated in 1794.

Moving In

James Duff, who was the first settler in 1795, claimed 400 acres of land in the northern part of what was to become McCandless. His widow later sold the land for a mare and a saddle. The land increased in value, as a 50-acre plot sold for $11,000 in 1875.

The second settler was Henry Moon, noted for his log cabin, built along the Pine Creek in 1796, where he lived with his family.


Around 1800, Phillip Sarver started the movement for the first industry in McCandless: a sawmill and gristmill located along Pine Creek (popular place, huh?). Weekly mail service began in the North Hills in 1801, with relay stations in Wexford, Warrendale, and Perrysville. Inns and taverns soon followed.


McCandless became a very prominent, strategic location during the War of 1812. An important route for transporting war materials from Pittsburgh to Admiral Perry's forces on Lake Erie passed through the area. The road they used became known as Perry's Overland Route. Sound familiar?

Meeting Judge McCandlessJudge McCandless

In the 1800s, McCandless was almost exclusively a farming community. The 1860 census showed a population of 1,482 residents, a number that was not to be exceeded until the late 1920s. It wasn't until McCandless was officially created in 1851 with an act of legislature that carved it out of a shrinking Pine Township.

The township was named after Judge Wilson McCandless, who was a prominent person of the day. He was born in 1810, in Pittsburgh, and graduated from the Western University of Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh) in 1826. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Electoral College in the presidential elections of 1844, 1852, and 1856. Twice he held the position of president of the Electoral College.