John Weakley Chalfant, one of Pittsburgh's most prominent business men, was born at Turtle Creek, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on December 13, 1827. His father Henry Chalfant came from near Philadelphia in 1827 and settled at Turtle Creek where he purchased a farm. He married Isabella C. Weakley, daughter of Samuel and Hester Weakley of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Ten children were born to this union, of which John W. was the eldest.
Chalfant's parents remained on the property that became the borough of Chalfant in Wilkins. Many Chalfants are buried in Beulah Cemetery (Presbyterian) in Churchill.
John Weakley Chalfant grew to maturity on the home farm, attending the district school which was supplemented by a course in Jefferson College at Cannonsburg. Graduating from that institution in 1850, he entered the employ of Zug & Painter, iron manufacturers of Pittsburgh, where he remained until 1855-56 when he purchased an interest in the firm of Spang & Company, iron manufacturers, an iron and steel manufacturer that was instrumental in the settlement of Etna. In 1858 the firm name was changed to Spang, Chalfant & Company, the firm being composed of Charles H. Spang, John W. Chalfant, Campbell B. Herron, Alexander M. Byers and A. G. Lloyd. George A. Chalfant, a brother of our subject, became a member in 1863.
During the life of John W. Chalfant, he was associated with nearly every enterprise that had for its purpose the upbuilding and the development of the financial, manufacturing and social interests of Pittsburgh and vicinity. He was the promoter and organizer of the Pittsburgh and Western Railroad, also of the Pittsburgh Junction Railroad. He was one of the organizers and was for years president of the People's National Bank. He served as president of the Manufacturers and Merchants Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, and was a director of the People's Savings Bank; Spang, Chalfant & Co.; Isabella Furnace Company; Pittsburgh Locomotive Works; Western Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb; Western Pennsylvania Hospital and Allegheny General Hospital. He was one of the founders and for many years served as the president of the Duquesne Club. When it was decided to hold a sanitary fair in Pittsburgh for the benefit of the soldiers in the field in our Civil War, Mr. Chalfant with two others was sent to Cleveland Ohio to negotiate for buildings that had been used for similar purposes in that city. Upon their arrival they found that, if secured, the bargain must be closed at once, and without waiting to confer with the home mission they assured all the risks and gave their individual notes for ten thousand dollars. This was a large amount for these young men. The project proved a great success and over a quarter of a million was realized.
John W. Chalfant was for many years president of the board of trustees of First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Chalfant was probably the first man in the world to use natural gas for manufacturing purposes. The gas was piped to his iron mills before other manufacturers utilized it.
On May 31, 1860, John W. Chalfant married Miss Ellen Quigley McCrea, daughter of William and Liberty M. McCrea. (William McCrea lived only eight years after his marriage. His widow lived on one of her farms until her death. She and her husband were members of the Beulah Presbyterian Church, which was in sight of their home).
To Mr. and Mrs. Chalfant five children were born, all of whom are living [in 1913]:
(1) (Margaret) Mary Chalfant [McKee] (born Apr. 8, 1861) married George Wilson McKee. Major George McKee, U. S. A., who d. Nov. 30, 1891, while in command of Frankford Arsenal, Penna. To Major George Wilson McKee and Mary Liberty Chalfant McKee was born one child: Their daughter Georgiana Wilson McKee born Apr. 25, 1892. Their descendents:
Georgiana Wilson McKee married William B. Blair II; their children:
- Mary Mckee Blair
- William B. Blair III
- George McKee Blair
(2) Isabella Campbell Chalfant (born Sept. 23, 1865)
(3) Henry Chalfant (born Sept. 17, 1867 - died 28 Aug 1928 ); m. May 14, 1901, Harriet BeckwithWatson, of Allegheny, Penna. at St. George's Hanover St., London, England (Harriet died: 17 Jan 1937 in Baltimore, MD). Henry was graduated from Harvard in 1899 and succeeded his father in the firm of Spang, Chalfant & Co., they lived at 915 Ridge Avenue in Allegheny. To Henry Chalfant and Harriet Beckwith Watson Chalfant were born:
(a): Eleanor Chalfant; b. Jan. 10, 1903. Eleanor married John Crossman Cooper. Their children were:
- John Wilson Cooper
- Harriet Cooper (born May 30, 1931)
- Louisa Cooper (born 1939)
(b) Martha Sewel Chalfant b: 05 Dec 1905 married Clarence Watson, Sr.; their children:
- Clarence Watson, Jr. b: 31 Jan 1931
- Martha Hungerford Watson b: 17 Apr 1936
(c) Henry Chalfant b: May 1909 married Nancy Means Doyle; their daughter:
- Alice Barnard Chalfant b: 17 Apr 1936
(4) Eleanor McCrea Chalfant (born Dec. 2, 1879) called "Ellen";
(5) Annie Chalfant (June 8, 1882) Married Walter S. Mitchell. Lived at 5028 Moorewood Place.
Their home was at 308 North East Avenue, Allegheny.
Mr. Chalfant died on December 28, 1898.
Source: The Book of Prominent Pennsylvanians; A Standard Reference. (1913)
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Note that the Pittsburgh Blue Book of 1904 also has:
John W. Chalfant, Jr. who married Elizabeth Gerry Briggs and had one son Charles Briggs Chalfant--they lived at 129 Lincoln Avenue, Edgewood Park, PA. This must have been a nephew named in his honor.