Beautifully engraved unissued certificate from the Coraopolis & Neville Island Bridge Company printed in the 1890's. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of a coat of arms flanked by horses. This item is over 100 years old.
Neville Island, known as both Long Island and Montour Island during its history, is an island in the Ohio River approximately 5 miles long and about 3/8 mile wide at its average width. Three bridges provide access to the island, connecting it with the mainlands on both sides of the river.
The island's permanent name comes from Gen. John Neville, an acquaintance of George Washington. During their time, it was known as a lush and fertile agricultural area. In the mid-1890s, the situation changed when executives of the Pittsburgh, Neville Island and Coraopolis Railway wanted to sell the entire island for manufacturing purposes.
This idea was defeated, but eventually about one-third of the island was designated for industry. With construction of the railway, a bridge was built from Coraopolis to Neville Island, with the entire cost of both railway and bridge totaling $240,000.
Over the past years, many industries have flourished on Neville Islnad, including boatyards, engineering and chemical companies and steel mills. The island' s industry experienced particularly heavy activity during World War II, when demand for steel was particularly vital.
In the past 15 years, though, Neville has suffered through the decline of the Pittsburgh steel industry, with the township's tax base dropping substantially and causing some economic difficulties.
A new Coraopolis-Neville Island Bridge opened in 1995, relieving major traffic difficulties and spurring hopes for renewed interest in locating businesses on the island.
Coraopolis, founded in 1886, has a history replete with the names found on the borough's street signs' names like Montour, Vance, Ferree, McCabe, Neely and Watson. The first permanent settler in Coraopolis was Capt. Robert Vance, a Virginia native who was a member of the regiment commanded by Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Braddock in the Ameican Revolution. In 1795, Vance built a log stockade building and a stone blockhouse to protect the area against Indian raids. The site of the fort was around the present Broadway and Chestnut streets, near Second Ave.
One of the most important early industries in Coraopolis was begun by the Watson family, English immigrants who arrived in America in 1830. The Watsons built a sawmill on the site of the present municipal building on Fifth Avenue. Later, they operated a much larger grist mill on the river bank at Mill Street, until 1887.
Community development in Coraopolis - known as Middletown until 1886 - moved along gradually with the building of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad in 1877. Several Coraopolis residents were stockholders in this enterprise. In 1890, oil was discovered at both ends of town, which briefly stimulated a population boom. The effects did not last long, however, as the oil supplies were found to be rather modest.
In 1892, community development took off with the construction of the first high-speed electric street railway in the United States. The railway was scheduled to run up to 40 mph, going from Coraopolis, over Neville Island and to McKees Rocks.
Along with the railway came Consoidated Lamp and Glass Company to Coraopolis, moving from its location in Fostoria, Ohio. Consoliated Glass employed up to 350 people. Other Coraopolis residents worked for the new industries established on Neville Island.
Coraopolis' first municipal building was built in 1897 on State Avenue and was used unitl 1929, when the current building was constructed.
The town was incorporated as a borough in June 1886. Legend has the borough being named for a member of the Watson family, but research uncovered by longtime resident and local historian Dr. Frank "Buck" Braden shows it more likely took the appellation from a Greek word for "maiden city."
Coraopolis and Neville Township merged to form Cornell School District in 1971, and all students reported to the new Cornell Educational Center in 1976.
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