You never know what you might pick from the Allegheny River.

George and Susan Murphy Hott, magnet fishing enthusiasts, pulled out parts of boats, locks and even a gun.

“I pulled a washing machine off a barge that was the size of a dinner plate,” said George, who started the hobby less than a year ago.

Earlier this summer, the little discovery turned out to be the most special for the couple.

The O’Hara couple were casting their line from the beach near the 62nd Street Bridge in Lawrenceville, and they grabbed a piece of history.

This was the first badge issued to the Allegheny Steel Co. police, which patrolled the Natrona plant from 1901 to the 1930s.

Allegheny Steel merged with Ludlum Steel in August 1938 to create Allegheny Ludlum, now ATI, making the badge about a century old, if not older.

“It’s hard to know where it was in the water, but it could have been there for decades,” George said.

“It says Harrison Township No. 1,” Susan said. “I thought it might indicate that it was the president’s badge.

“We knew right away that we had to do the right thing.”

The Haughts contacted Harrison Police Chief Brian Turak, who said he was amazed by the unusual discovery.

“It’s a wonderful piece of history,” Turak said.

He plans to create a display at the police office to showcase pieces of the town’s roots.

O’Hara historian Tom Powers was struck by the similarity between Harrison’s badge and a badge from the Allegheny County Workhouse, a prison that operated on the Blaunox-O’Hara Line near Alpha Drive and Freeport Road.

“I think the fact that the badges have the same basic design is evidence that they were produced for the same entity, which is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Powers said.

The Coal and Iron Police Force was established in 1865 as a special unit to patrol the mills. The force developed because captains of industry requested additional protection for their properties to supplement enforcement by the county sheriff’s office.

In many cases, auxiliary police were viewed as unsavory figures, and were employed for the sole purpose of union busting. The Coal and Iron Police “wear black uniforms, black shoes and a black belt,” a Pittsburgh correspondent for the St. Louis Star wrote in 1928.

ATI spokeswoman Natalie Gillespie said it’s exciting when family members or others “share artifacts that demonstrate how important we are to the communities in which we work.”

“Over the years, we have contributed materials to the Taranto Library and the Heinz History Center to help preserve the identity of this industry in our region,” Gillespie said. “Great. This badge has lasted a long time.”

Powers, Turak and the Hoots said they would like to know the story of how the badge fell into murky waters 20 miles from its original home.

“Was that part of the theft? Did someone throw it away on purpose?” George asked. “We didn’t really know where Harrison was, but we knew we had to get him to the right place.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya via email at or via Twitter .

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