William Espy was one of nine children born to Jane (Fife) and James Espy. James had come to St. Clair Township around 1805 or 1806 from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania (James’ grandparents came to America from Ireland in 1725, and settled in Lancaster County). James was a postmaster and justice of the peace. His wife, Jane, was the daughter of early pioneers William and Margaret Fife (Willam and Margaret were cousins-their fathers came to America from Scotland in the 1750s and 1760s). Both James and Jane are buried in Bethel Church Cemetery with several of their children. Their children were: Thomas, who organized Co. H, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers (he died in the war and his body was never recovered); Margaret, who married Thomas Fife; William; Ann, who married Thomas Morrow; James; Elizabeth, who married James Wilson; Mary, who married Joseph McCormick; John, who married Margaret Smith; and Jane.
William was an officer in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Mexican War (1846-1848). William married Mary Alexander and the couple lived in what is now Dormont in the house built by Nathaniel Plummer. They had 10 children including Emma Espy (1859-1893) who married Joseph L. McKnight.
In an Aug. 10, 1882, letter to Jacob Henrici, William wrote of his desire to be named president of the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad. “Within the next three weeks I expect to have my financial troubles all in shape,” William wrote. He mentions that he prepared the railroad’s original charter, took an active interest in raising the funds for its construction (which he supervised). The railroad had opened in April 1853 and extended from the mouth of Saw Mill Run at Temperanceville to Banksville-a distance of three miles. “I have always felt a lively interest in (the railroad),” William wrote, “almost as though it was a child of my creation and have never felt satisfied when I was away from it and now have my farming interests in such shape that I can leave them in the care of others.” William got his wish; he is listed as the railroad’s president in 1883. His son S.A. was listed as a stockholder.
When William died, he left a farm in Moon Township to his son S.A. (Alexander). To his six namesake grandsons he gave and devised “share and share and share and share alike.” His daughter Emma received his fortepiano, daughter Bella received the organ, daughter Annie got the library (including the bookcase), daughter Jennie received the bedding and furniture of “the best bedroom” and daughter Elizabeth received “the remainder of the household stuff.” William also recommended that his farm be sold by his executors. William owned a great deal of land in what is now the Dormont/Beechview area (surrounding what is now Espy Avenue). An 1876 map of the area shows there was once a “Borough of Espey” abutting Union Township. William also owned a sizeable portion of land in what is now Mt. Lebanon where Beadling Road joins Washington Road.