Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Happy Birthday

photo of Bald Eagle courtesy of the NPS

   I want to wish a brief, but meaningful Happy Birthday to the National Park Service. For all you have done to preserve and present the visual, audio and special grounds of our history to the public at large, congratulations!

   To institute and celebrate this honor, there are commemorative coins being printed up in three limited editions. By the way, there is also a President Reagan Series, Birth Coin Sets, Uncirculated  Coin Sets are being offered on their site. Some of these are really quite attractive. A list of the various National Parks are included with much other information.

   The National Park Service is 100 years old this year ! There is so much to learn about.

    Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum

   Histbuffer, ( a k a, me),  received a small request in the mail not too long ago and I mean to honor my promise. In doing so, I'm now throwing a 'plug' in to the Mount Pleasant Glass Festival and Museum.  The plug isn't really necessary as this is a great service to the community! It is really something to see and experience. Notice, there are two separate links to check out above.

   Located at 402 East Main St. at Suite 600, phone number- 547-5929, the Glass Museum opened its doors in 2013. Opening hours are between 11:oo a. m. to 3:30 p. m., Mon. - Sat. They have quite a variety of glassware available for perusal, and represented our the three local glass companies: Bryce, Lennox and L. E. SMITH. Ms. Philips-Haler succeeded Casandra Vivian as the new Director. There is a research library and a gift shop for those interested. They also have  "The Glory Years, Mount Pleasant" exhibit opened recently.

   Admission is FREE, folks! So please consider making a donation.

   Keep an eye out, there are many festivals going on this fall all through Westmoreland and Fayette and the surrounding counties this fall and autumn is a beautful time of the year to head into the hills. You should try to keep a few on your weekend itinerary, if you can manage it!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Recognition: An Updated Honor Roll


  The original idea behind updating this aspect of the blog began as just a spur of the moment idea quickly put into action. Since the heady, early days and months presenting regional history there has been scattered responses to the acknowledgement toward those that have been in some way associated with this blog. Whether this was by correspondence, collaboration, or some other type of connection. Some of you have been particularly close and some more of an acquaintance. There are references to them throughout this blog.

   Now, at a crossroads between work on a few newer planned posts, I made the decision to briefly visit the topic once again. Revisiting the link will help give a perspective on what this is all about. If I had any hesitation on redoing something on this order, it was knowing most visitors might not experience a heavy interest, so please bear with the subject matter for a small break this month while gaining an inside look at things. Links are given to help inform those that are interested with added  info on these folks. This is all Free of Charge !

   I realize these mentions are just names to most folks, yet most of these associations are very meaningful in some way and they are appreciated. Those that held a major influence or were rather more directly involved, are presented first and foremost. Those of a 'minor' level, though still on a par worth gaining a place here are shown next. Finally, those persons somewhere near the periphery are not forgotten or ignored: they do appear last. You might ask the question, why are so many on a first name basis? This is only because there may be a question if they would care for any extra attention in this manner and what should be fairly obvious is I don't really like to  ask, personally. Alright then.

Just finished: a 2nd round of' business cards for the blog

   Most here to see if they are named should be aware who exactly is being referred to. In my way of thinking, that is what matters. Correspondents and affiliates come and go through the years making a tougher task of including them or not. So... I did the best I can. The categories are more for convenience and certainly not intended to denigrate any, but only in an attempt to elevate!

   Those that are not in touch anymore, regardless of the reasons, I still miss the input.

   The old adage of  'pointing the way down the road and up around the bend' still holds true.


       Jeff Hann- I only see him occasionally, but we still continue to correspond. He is a valued friend and a guy who has made strides in  historical discovery with important follow up research which I admire. HATS OFF !

     Cindy S. - Here's a lady who I discovered works very near to me. I recently came to know her and the close connections to my own paternal ancestry who possesses great added heritage I am now learning more about! (I am so sorry for the passing of her mother a while back).

     Art Kenner - Another relative, good guy and history enthusiast. He resides in Texas and we have corresponded frequently! We may yet be able to meet in person some fine day. (A sad note of condolence to him and his family toward the recent death of his father, Lewis).

     Keith Romesburg - My cousin and friend from the Bullskin Historical Society who I hope to come upon more often. A compatriot and history buff in his own way as well. I love the guy AND he is a relative in the Miner/Hatfield/Wilson tradition!

      Jay Stern - An informative individual who lives in the local area who gave some great tips on some subject matter.

       Chris Espenshade - A knowledgeable and well known archeologist, he provided me the opportunity to present further evidence of the historical underpinnings of the Turkey Foot Road and Braddock Road near the borders of Upper Tyrone and Bullskin Townships in Fayette County and made recommendations partly based on this which was very thoughtful.

   , (here's the old one for comparisons), author, Lannie Dietle who has given me advice and involved in some posts.

    NANCY H. - A helpful and a generous person I don't hear from much any longer. One of the first people in our region who followed my blog closely AND let me know it! My hat is still off to her.

    Lannie Dietle - An major, well established author who was instrumental in giving me quality advice and was often in frequent correspondence and collaboration who is due to be out with a new book soon. His influence can be found in various parts of this blog, including a guest post.

    Kim Brown - The President of the Bullskin Township Historical Society. They are celebrating their 20th year.

      Although Kim would probably be the first to admit we haven't corresponded much regularly as in the 'old days' and I am lax on attending meetings, she recently published another article of mine, (finally), in the Fall Quarterly Newsletter about Iron Bridge. You need to become a member to receive the output of the newsletter for yourselves. Hint: two articles are here for you to check out - the original one from May of 2014, "Meeting of the Townships"  and - "An Update on Iron Bridge and the Great Road." You can catch my involvement in a 2015 Fall Heritage Festival visit AND my small (apparently low key ?) night at the Bullskin Fair! There is a photo of the Grange Hall provided by Kim Brown for perusal.

    To Scott Wilson, my Bullskin brother, a quick word. (He can be seen below on the left, next to my brother Mark on the rather poor quality photo). His rare insight and sense of direction has at key moments afforded me needed guidance in various areas. Indeed!

    Bobbi Kramer - an author in her own right who has lent a hand in one of the blog posts here at Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History and someone I've talked to off and on about the subject of historical research.

     Bob Hatfield - I am attempting to garner some historical information on relatives of Devil Anse Hatfield and the famous branch from West Virginia. He is a great, great nephew. This really is intriguing stuff too.

      Jamie Lambing: A one off helper in the area of Smithton who provided good photos and helped further my understanding of the place!

    My parents, Wayne Wilson and Sylvia Hoover Wilson, although dead, you are both in my thoughts and heart every day and an inspiration.

      Anthony: We use to have in depth conversations which took much time. Now he is a busy man with his own websites, editing, preparing articles, on and on. I miss his blog tutelage as I felt he was a near expert when it came to writing. I fondly recall his offers of needed advice as he was there for ME when he could be.


    Barb, Tristan, and Angie, not necessarily affiliated with F/WFH, still they are Facebook friends. Hey, I just wanted to mention them! Jade, who works at the Bedford Museum, (please get the email thing better under control!) Rob E., Dwaine Fuoss, the eccentric Indian artifact collector, Imelda another history-minded and generous woman; John Connor, who I haven't seen in some time, an old work friend and a nice guy,  ETC.

    Many of these people do not know of each other. They have in common the fact of reminding me this effort is worthwhile. Whatever their involvement, large, small, important or occasional, I wanted to do them an honorable mention. For those that care, as it is understood most of these kind individuals certainly do not require or desire any acknowledgements, per se; regardless, you are in reception of a hearty, old fashioned  

                      C ON G R A T U L A T I O N S !

     By the way, the formatting may be a bit off so it shouldn't be taken too seriously; don't worry about that.

    Do you feel any wish to be included here? Well, get in correspondence or collaboration with ol' Histbuffer and see if you can provide any pertinent info, ideas, or research angles and maybe, guess what? 

    * YOU will be more than welcome to be a part of this eclectic "Group" TOO ! *

     We will return with more Ancestor material, an excursion I made on my vacation to Bedford, but I haven't managed to get down to Fort Necessity yet; a History Contest is in the works as well! So, keep coming back and check it out soon. Thanks for your continuing patronage. Your interest is so special and has made the development of these posts all worth the time and effort! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

George C. Marshall of Uniontown

    Note: As many of you likely know, I have been in the habit for well over a year of publishing posts on a Sunday. Well folks,  this time around, I just decided to forego the habit providing another chapter on Uniontown on a Monday instead.

                      The above photo of George C. Marshall is from 1946

      George Catlett Marshall was surely the most famous and influential human being ever born in Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

      Early Career and History

      George Marshall arrived in this world and his hometown on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1880, the son of George Marshall and Laura (Bradford) Marshall. Later in life he married Elizabeth Carter Coles, in 1902. After the death of Elizabeth, he married his second wife, Katherine Boyce Tupper in 1930.

     Marshall was a member of the Episcopal Church; his Alma mater was the Virginia Military Institute. In college he was a VMI Keydets tackle on the All American Southern Team and was later commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the army. George saw action in the Philippine-American campaign of World War One, the Western Front and later under General John Pershing in the Muese-Argonne Offensive helping to defeat the German Army.

   . In 1916 he returned to America to be aide-de-camp of the commander of the Western Department and former Chief of Staff, Major general J Franklin Bell. Eventually he returned to duty for mobilization of the First Division in France and from there Marshall became connected with directing training and operations in planning strategic military attacks. In World War Two he was closely involved in the Chinese Civil War arena and working closely with the War Department in various positions and functions, too many to be related in the scope of this article. He was promoted to brigadier general in October of 1936 and was made Chief of Staff in 1939. He received five star rank in December of 1944.

    Although criticized for some of his choices and his perceived delays in the Pearl harbor Attack, after his time as instructor of the War College, he was instrumental in recommending American generals to top commands. The list includes the famed George Patton, future President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the gifted Omar Bradley.

   During a storied career in the U.. S. army, from 1902-1959 he received many awards. Among these were the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, Silver Star, the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (Great Britain), the Grand Cross Legion of Honor (France), the United States Congressional Gold Medal and in 1953, the Nobel Peace Prize for the plan of recovery for Western Europe. He also received numerous foreign military honors and decorations as well.

    Marshall became the 50th Secretary of State, and was also the United States Army Chief of Staff, and the third Secretary of the Defense Department. Winston Churchill was gave him the moniker, "organizer of victory" for his success in leadership of the Allied Forces. He became the chief military advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

    After a commencement speech at Harvard University in June, 1947, where he suggested the Europeans should properly devise their own economic plan of rebuilding with assistance from the United States, his name was given to the Marshall Plan which was developed by the State Department. He kept a home in Leesburg, Virginia known as Dodona Manor.

   Describing his unique abilities and role, Orson Wells may have said it best, when in an interview  he emphatically stated, " Marshall is the greatest man I ever met...a tremendous gentleman, an old fashioned institution that isn't with us anymore."

   The general was portrayed in at least nine movies, including 'Saving Private Ryan', a 1998 film starring Tom Hanks. Many streets and buildings across America are named in his honor, which was well deserved. Nearby, in Uniontown we have the Marshall Elementary School. Also quite a few books were written about him and foundations were created through his influence, patronage and prestige.

  This was certainly a native born son we can all be particularly proud of, especially in our neck of the woods!

   General George C. Marshall subsequently died in Washington D. C. on October 16, 1959 at the age of 78. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.


   Marshall never forgot how special his hometown was to him; when fielding questions from reporters on a visit during WW2, he deflected their questions to observations of the historic landmarks of the city-a place of fond memories he always treasured with great attachment.


    A bronze statue of George C. Marshall stands in Uniontown at the corner of Main and Pittsburgh streets at the Memorial Park named after him, the birthplace of this great man and military genius.

    John Marshall

  George Marshall was a distant relative of John Marshall, a former Chief Justice of the United States and leader of the Federalist Party. To provide a brief synopsis of his life, Chief Justice John Marshall, a descendant of colonist William Randolph, was born in a log cabin close to Germantown, Virginia on September 24, 1755. During the years 1782 to 1795, he held an array of offices, mostly political. Working his way up in position, he became Secretary of State in 1800 and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1801.

Chief Justice John Marshall, 1832
    This Marshall spent one year at Cambell Academy with  a certain classmate also named 'John'. In fact it was future President, John Monroe.

   As John was growing up, his idol was said to be none other than our most famous general, George Washington. Washington was a friend of his father, Thomas Marshall, land surveyor of Lord Fairfax. At the age of twenty, Washington so inspired young John Marshall at the beginning of the Revolutionary War that he entered the Culpepper Minutemen, a state militia. He was duly appointed lieutenant.The unit was then absorbed into Virginia's Continental Army 11th Regiment where they soon achieved success and he was then promoted to an officer of the 3rd Regiment under the authority of Colonel Morgan.

Marshall's depiction on the 1890 $20 Treasury Note

       He was active in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown where he was wounded in the hand. At Valley Forge he was made the chief legal advisor to General Washington. In a visit to Yorktown where his father was stationed, he met Mary Willis Ambler, his future bride. In 1780 he studied law at the college of William and Mary at Williamsburg. He was sent to the state convention as a delegate to ratify the Constitution in 1788, and among other notable achievements, Marshall was an envoy on a diplomatic mission to France; in 1799 was elected to the House of Representatives and was Secretary of State under John Adams. He joined the Supreme Court in 1801, and was heralded as the fourth Chief Justice in the history of the young country, later to develop into the greatest in the world. While Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he was instrumental in many high profile landmark cases, helping to define the law in the pivotal historical processes of early America.

    A unique man exemplifying courageous qualities in an amazing time; John Marshall served faithfully until his death in Philadelphia on July 6, 1835 when the Liberty Bell was rung to honor his funeral procession at a ripe old age. There is a park and a marker at his birthplace where his home once stood, near Midland, Virginia.

     Thanks for visiting. As always, any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Please return to my site for further adventures in regional history!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Intimating Irwin

   Yes, in case you are wondering, it took a minute or two to find a proper header for this one.

  The Borough

    Although the Borough of Irwin was claimed to of begun in simple form at an earlier date, from Jacktown Hill to Veterans Bridge, it was incorporated back in 1864. Located on Route 30 twenty-two miles southeast of Pittsburgh and nearly a square mile in size, the borough lies near the geographical center of North Huntington township. The township holds the honor of being a part of Westmoreland County when it was created out of Bedford in 1773.


   The Forbes Road lay to the north and the Braddock Road was further to the southwest, but as a Reverend Dietrich once pointed out in no uncertain terms, this did not deter early settlers from finding in the Brush Creek Valley between the Big Sewickley Creek and Turtle Creek an ideal position for living quarters: "It must have been an inspiring sight to view its winding expanse from some high ridge as the lone explorer crossed the surrounding water-shed to see the irregular hills and dales, carpeted with the original forests in shades of green and brown."

   In a rather unique situation with the unanimous decision of the council in 2013, the borough purchased the Lamp Theater from The Westmoreland Cultural Trust for the price of one whole dollar to hold on to a grant for $500,000 while matching the funds needed for this acquisition. Quite a feat in itself. Last year they even drew in a big talent from this region with The Clark's.

   One mile to the west of the Pennsylvania Turnpike they perform quality Concerts in the Park at the Irwin Park Amphitheater, properly enough named, precisely at 6:30 in the milder months of the year. This has been taking place, without fail, (as far as I am aware), for twenty-six years to date. These concerts bring in talent from all around the region and are FREE to the public to attend and enjoy, (brought to you by the Irwin Civic Activities Committee).


Downtown Irwin looking north from Main and Fourth Street intersections


 As the borough developed into the late 1800's, later concerns of Irwin centered around the large coal deposits, the Westmoreland Coal, controlled by George Ross Scull, and the Penn Gas Coal companies being two examples, while iron foundries, mills and the mirror factories helped build Irwin into a booming town putting it firmly on the map. The modern population hovers near the 4,000 resident mark.

  If there is one thing going for Irwin today, they have a good choice in restaurants-the Firepit, Cenacolo and the Arena Sports Grille know how to serve up a meal! The town also does a big Annual Christmas House Tour in December.

   A Piece of Local Heritage

   Brush Hill, the former Scull House was named for John Irwin Scull who married his daughter, Mary and became the founder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This historic mansion was first built in 1798. Incorporating the once popular Federal Era type architecture, the structure itself said to be made of fieldstone and sandstone. The particular style used associates the site with classicism of Regency, (late Georgian), and french Empire architecture closely connected to ideals of the early American republic which derived much of its founding aspirations from ancient Greece and Rome. For those with more than a casual interest, famous architects of the style included Benjamin Latrobe, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Bulfinch. In the 1950's the place was upgraded from a state of disrepair by a denist, Dr. John Hudson. "Brush Hill" was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

    Later, according to a Tribune-Review article from December of 2007,  Brush Hill house was further restored by owners Don and Dilly Miller. During renovation some archaic finds were made.

 Nearby Indian Paths

   More particular material may be found at As the good Reverend further related, the township was conveniently crossed through with the four important Indian trails of Nemacolin at Circleville running to the Mon river eastward and then south to Scottdale and on through Dunbar's Gap to the Great Meadows; the Allegheny-Laurel Hill Trail which in the east found it's origin at old Shannopin's Town traveling west near the Allegheny River through Pittsburgh to Ligonier and to Bedford, which he correctly explains was the basic route of Forbes' army in the eventful year of 1758.

   Then there are the lesser trails through New Florence and the Ligonier Valley southward and a trail north of New Kensington heading to the Juniata and on to the Susquehanna river system. Of course, later this was on the "great road" of the Lincoln Highway and a part of the first railroad, the Pennsylvania R x R, in fact.

  Colonel John Irwin

    Saving information that may well be the best for last, the founder of the town was John Irwin, born to James and Jane Irwin in 1811. Through the inheritance of his father's lands he soon became a leading merchant and the most prominent member of the early community.

    Colonel John Irwin was born in Ireland in 1740 and arrived in the colonies in the year 1762. The gentleman in question was known to be at Fort Pitt in 1766, while he may of seen some action there as he was the army's Chief Commisary Officer and was stationed here for a time. After the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, an early settler of Westmoreland County, he made the purchase of the Brush Hill tract at the mouth of Bushy Run to the south near Fort Walthour. He then proceeded to build a cabin near the 'Scull House' to the east of Irwin later occupied by his grandson. While there, he became a trader, mostly in the lucrative fur market with the nearby Indian folk. It was also burned by the Indian raids in 1782.

  Finally, John lived in a stone house near the year 1792 and took up permanent residence after his other establishments had burned to the ground. In spite of these conditions he was the Deputy Commissioner for the Western Divison of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, naturally a proud reminder of the origins of this location. By 1821, in infirm health, he resigned his illustrious position as Associate Justice of Westmoreland County and died in 1822.

   It was the colonel's nephew of the same name that founded the borough of Irwin.

   In 1783, his brother James came to America and joined John in this region and created what was to become Jacktown or Jacksonville. By the creation and opening of the Pittsbugh and Greensburg Road, the place gained advantages as a stagecoach stop and developed a sense of early business, and by becoming a toll road in 1816, the boom of progress slowly, yet inexorably began.

  Thus we have noted another part of our exciting Fayette/Westmoreland history.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Uncovering Uniontown Part 1: A Princess In Uniontown


   This post is Part One of a planned series on Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. 

   Instead of accessing and addressing the large volume of information and much of the routine, though meaningful material tirelessly researched, and then adding my own insights on various aspects of the old city, we will be examining what I feel are the more fascinating historical subjects in reasonably sized installments. Hopefully this will be appropriate in avoiding overly large articles with many chunks of data stretching endlessly to the bottom of the page and help hold the visitor's interest more easily.

   A Princess In Uniontown, really?

   Yes, indeed there was... once upon a time.

   Read on for this exciting true story:

   Princess Lida of Thurn and Taxis, as she became known, was not born a princess. Her life spanned the years 1875-1965. She was an American heiress and socialite and was later considered a bit on the controversial side, especially when it came to lawsuits and the actions as well as some of the personal dealings of her sons.

   Her husband was Prince Victor, 1976-1928, whom she married on November 1, or as some accounts have it, on Nov. 2nd in the year 1911. (These facts are verified partly according to the New York Times, Feb. 16, 1914 and other articles).

    Through her first marriage she became Mrs. Gerald Fitzgerald, but her birth name was Lida Eleanor Nichols of Uniontown, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Her first husband was Gerald Percival Fitzgerald of Ireland whom she met in 1899. When he moved to Fayette County he set up the small town of Shamrock, near New Salem in Menallen Township. They later divorced in 1906 with Lida receiving a large alimony settlement from Parliament to make the arrangements of the final separation legal.  In her rather humbler beginnings, this lady was the daughter of a grocer, John Nichols, and his wife Lenora.

     Lida Eleanor Nichols, later to become the illustrious Princess Lida, was the niece of Joseph V. Thompson, a big banker and coal operator of his time.

     Her second husband's full name was, according to the new princess, 'Victor Theodore Maximilian Egon Maria Lamoral.'  This was the identifying name she showed proof of in court when she went to London to sue Josephine Moffat, a New York showgirl pretending to royalty as "Her Royal Highness Josephine", who wrongly claimed the title of Princess of Thurn and Taxis. These kinds of happenings were great fodder in the heady days of the early twentieth century, and all the more so since this woman was a phony, pure and simple, losing the injunction to the real Princess with a penalty of $500.


    The region of Thurn and Taxis actually has a board game named after it! The princely coat of arms shows two red dragons and two castles; this certainly makes plenty of sense in representing two cities; it also show an animal, possibly a badger, in the middle. Sorry, no armorial lingo is being included here.

   Some Historical Background on Thurn and Taxis

     The capital of the district was the once Imperial city Regensberg of Bavaria, once a sovereign principality before 1806 and losing its noble status after the fall of the German Empire in 1918. They were also Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a Catholic order of chivalry founded in 1430. The order still exists in two branches, Spanish and Austrian. It appears the historic style of the title for the prince is "His Serene Highness." Quite impressive. Would this mean Lida's title was "Her Serene Highness"?

   Except for a minimal amount of time for the most part, she moved to the Austrian Republic to be with her husband in Europe and only returned for a while when Prince Victor became an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army at the start of World War One and headed back to Europe by 1920. Following the death of Prince Victor in Vienna, she spent her time alternating between her residences in New York City, Uniontown and in Europe.


   While residing in Uniontown her home, shown above, was at the corner of South Mount Vernon Avenue and West Main Street. She died in New York at the age of 90 on December 6, 1965. Most of her art, antiques and valuables were sold at auction in 1966.

    I'll be back soon with another post on our amazing, and sometimes, illustrious history.

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