Before 1795 this area was all wilderness, without a single settler north or west of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers, and not more than two cabins in what later became known as Allegheny City.
After the Revolution, this land was offered to the soldiers who came home from the war bankrupt. The Pennsylvania currency in which they had been paid was practically worthless.
Depreciation certificates were issued to them in amounts representing the estimated difference between the paper currency and hard money. The first sale took place near Sewickley where the land sold at 28 cents per acre.
The first owners of the 640 acres of land now known as Bellevue were James Robinson and Hugh Henry Brackenridge.
Robinson, a soldier, was one of two settlers living on the North Shore of the Allegheny River across from Pittsburgh in 1799, the year he received his patent. He operated a tavern and a ferry at the north end of the present-day Sixth Street Bridge. His son, William, 14 years old at this time, became the first Mayor of Allegheny City in 1840. Their only neighbor on that side of the river was J. Lichtenberger who was growing buckwheat on Smokey Island.
Robinson’s grant was for 412.5 acres known as Sandy Bottom, what is now the western half of Bellevue. A local historian recalls that before Monroe Avenue was opened to traffic between Meade and South Jackson, a huge sand bank operated there. The sand from that bank, he said, “is scattered through the mortar of half the residences of Bellevue built at the beginning of the present century.”
Brackenridge, a chaplain in the Revolution, received his patent for “Sidney” in 1792. Half of his 400 acres were in Pine Township. The other 227 .5 acres were in Ross Township, and eventually that land became the eastern half of Bellevue, adjacent to what now is Pittsburgh.
Neither of these men kept their land. By the early 1800’s, it was divided into five farms. Their owners were Bellevue’s original settlers.
Andrew Jackque (Jack), a Frenchman, owned the land south of Lincoln Avenue from South Fremont to Jackque’s (Jack’s). He had brought his family over the mountains in a Conestoga wagon and wanting to locate near the river, settled in the run. There he built a grist mill and a stone house. He also operated a tavern along the river, on the trail from Fort Pitt to Fort McIntosh. He is considered Bellevue’s first settler.
In the middle 1800’s, the farmlands of Ross Township were beginning to attract well-to-do businessmen in Pittsburgh. The five farms were subdivided, and the homes of early Bellevue began to appear.
The Bellevue area's next focus became receiving municipal improvements from Ross Township in return for paying taxes. However, Ross Township was developing to the north, along the Venango Trail, which is now Route 19, and ignored the complaints from this section. Because of this, on June 8, 1867, a majority of the property owners petitioned the court to become the Borough of Bellevue. The name was suggested by J.J. East, a French scholar and linguist, meaning beautiful view. The East home stood on a terrace at Lincoln and Florence Avenues. There were 33 property owners who signed the petition.
Attorney Thomas M. Bayne was the legal representative of the property owners. According to the law, the petition could not be presented until the borough had a population of at least 300. While the population was only 299, it just so happened that Mrs. East was expecting a child, the borough's 300th resident, so the plans went ahead.
In granting the petition, the Court set September 11, 1867 as the date for the first election and designated Henry Williams' store as the place. The Court further decreed that Richard Straw be the Judge and Thomas Bakewell, Jr., and J.J. East, be the Inspectors for the election.