The site of the first G.C. Murphy fine-and-ten-cent store, Mckeesport is a city in Allegheny County at the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers. It is located southeast of the city of Pittsburgh, and at one time was Allegheny County’s second largest city.
The area was settled in 1795 and named after John McKee, it’s founder and one of the original settlers of Philadelphia. He built a log cabin near the rivers and took over his father’s ferry business. Prior to this time, it was said that George Washington frequented the area to visit the local Seneca Indian tribe, who he considered friends.
It was a small village until coal mining became the predominant industry in the area around 1830. Incorporated as a borough in 1842 and then a city in 1891, McKeesport grew steadily until the 1940s with it’s population reaching over 55,000 residents. The major employer, the National Tube Works, opening in 1872 and becoming part of U.S. Steel employed over 10,000 residents. Around this time, the U.S. Census categorized McKeesport as the fastest growing municipality in the nation.
As with other areas in the Pittsburgh region, the demise of the steel industry let to National Tube closing in the 1980s, along with other U.S. Steel plants in the Mon Valley. This led to some hard times for the area. Recently, efforts have begun with the cooperation of different community and activist organizations along with the county to revitalize this important part of Pittsburgh and American history.
Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy actually met in McKeesport for the first of their five debates on April 22, 1957.