Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Prospect of Dawson


   The town's Main Street is arrived at from the north off of the Dawson Scottdale Road, (Route 819), near the Lower Tyrone Fairgrounds in Fayette County. The Post Office is on Railroad St. and near Cochran St.  As Dickerson Run skirts around it to the south, the Dawson Bridge over the Youghiogheny River divides it from Vanderbilt, close by, which had a few great places for swimming near the beach when we were younger.

   There is the Historic District, (listed with the National Register of Historic places 1997), with the James Cochran House built in 1890.

   Originally called 'Prospect', in Fayette County, PA.  Dawson had some settlement by the 1780's and was started by the Smilie family, (John served in Congress), and then in the mid-1800's the part which became the main district was sold to one George Dawson through marriage to Sarah Huston, (Dawson), by which the borough acquired the name it is best known for these many years.

   As the Washington Coal and Coke was developed by the Cochran family in the latter part of the nineteenth century, this lead to the nearby staple of Star Junction in Perry Township.

   Dawson was first laid out in 1866. It became an industrious and busy place for many years. There were flat boat building, brick making and saw mills. With the close proximity of the 'Yough' river, economic growth was expanded.


Many prominent mining connections were established here, among other industries and companies.

   Like other areas of Fayette county, the coal and coke production were reduced through the newer process of steel manufacture and the area experienced decline in the early 1900's.

 Some information was garnered from the 1889, 'Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Fayette County, Pennsylvania'. (Wiley, Samuel T.  Chicago: John M. Gresham and Company).

explorepahistory, credit, Library of Congress
   A Story Of Disaster

   This horror took place back in Dec. 23, 1903, near Laurel Run, right before the Christmas holiday. A Duquesne Limited train from Pittsburgh with 150 passengers on board, rounding a curve, struck a pile of logs that inadvertently came off of a freight train shortly before 7:45 p. m. The engineer of the B&O branch train, William Homely of Hazelwood, was killed instantly. The Chief of the B&O in Connellsville, M. K. Smith was also killed. The passenger car became airborne and landed on the locomotive filling the rail car with scalding steam and the rest of the travelers were asphyxiated. One car landed in the Youghiogheny River. Oddly, no women perished.

   One hero was the baggage master, Thomas Dom who, though injured, ran down the track and set his coat on fire and waving it frantically to warn the next oncoming train for a warning to stop quickly or there would be another tragedy. Rescuers did the best they could under the circumstances. The morgue and undertakers were overwhelmed with the 65 persons killed and 59 injured in one of the worst train wrecks seen in this region.

   Remember, this blog welcomes your ideas and memories.

   A Few Nearby Coke Ovens

 Way out toward Hickman Run, west of the borough in the township border of Lower Tyrone on Hickman Road, there were the Jackson Mines and the coke ovens associated with the names, Cochran and Brown & Keister. Quite a few were cited on an old map, which gave the idea to check and observe what became of them. Some, I have found to be in good shape and are a nice example of what they use to appear like.


Hickman Rd. coke ovens

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wandering West Newton

   At about 20 miles 'below' Pittsburgh, West Newton is a borough to the southwest in Westmoreland County, located off Rt. 51. By following Rt. 31 and joining onto Rt. 136, you can't miss it. Having it's origins near 1788 with the arrival of early settlers and one in particular, Massachusettes born, General Rufus Putnam. He served during both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and lived from 1737-1824.

Wiki Commons and artist James Sharples Sr. also COWilliam

           Also serving in the north under Horatio Gates and Anthony Wayne following Stony Point.
He was known as a skillful engineer with his knowledge as a millwright and was a key component after the battle of Lexington.
He was heavily connected to the creation of  the Ohio Company March 1, 1786.
He stopped in the area that became West Newton for boat building purposes. One named 'Mayflower' and the other, the 'Adelpia'                  
 Also known as 'Simrell's Ferry' and 'Robbstown'. If anyone has more information to add to this please do!
The borough was incorporated in between 1842 and in 1851 given the privileges due, (from, History Of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania, by John N. Boucher, 1906). "When the army to quell the Whisky insurrection in 1794 passed through this section they tore down Robb's fences, and this aggravated him so that he refused to put them up again. He thereupon made a lottery and sold off the lots for a town".
  The Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad was established here as early as 1855. Furthermore, they had a schoolhouse by 1795. There was also a well known disaster here at the Port Royal  No,2 Mine in 1901 in Rostraver Township. A tragedy further aggravated by six explosions and apparently more deaths occurring to the workers attempting a rescue; from research partly furnished by historian Lloyd Thompson. The paper mill was a big industry for the town, built in 1859 by S. B. and General C. P. Markle, though there was some production long before that. It was updated by 1880.

 It would be worth your time to check out the Dick or Cornerstone Building of East Main Street with original sections from 1890. Also, the Plumer House, an interesting old home from 1814.  It is about 10 miles from the mouth of the Youghiogheny River. There are other places to see as well, and may find the old Dodson's Funeral Home more on the spooky side, but it is a Second Empire type building, and of good architectural charm. The Filburn Manor is over on Robertson Street and many  of the trails that make up the Great Allegheny Passage are nearby, much of which were constructed out of the old railroad bed.  
  Stores are aplenty here and taverns and restaurants too and that's nice to see in a few of these smaller towns. You can click to their site here. Then there is the quieter Vine Street, the Second Street or the Court Street Park, for a bit more wandering nearer to nature.
   I'll be back soon with a new post soon, about 'Dawson' and there is a lot more planned for the 'Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History' blog. So keep checking in and, above all...stay warm !

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Turkey Foot Road

                   Guest Blog 


 Lannie Dietle, the author of, "In Search Of The Turkey Foot Road" has been kind enough to write an article to be posted for my blog, 'Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History'. He lived here in the 'old days' and finds his residence in Texas. 

   [I, myself, can relate somewhat to the pride that would be felt, with military ancestry  on different sides of a family tree and in a traditional connection to the Hatfields, though not fully researched yet; going on back into the 1700's]. 
  Lannie, (and some of his informed colleagues), have some real expertise in their various fields that, hopefully folks around the 'borders' and further out into surrounding counties as well, will  find an important contribution to the knowledge of this near ancient road system traveling up through Pennsylvania. A lot of research is put into this subject matter. It's a fine thing he's accomplished and a purchase of the newer edition of his book due out in November, should prove to anyone the truly deep interest it deserves. Leading to a rare insight into our unique history, as well the various uses within the confines of this olden, mostly forgotten Road. (If, by chance, ANYBODY has further info, please contact Lannie at the link he provides at the end of his article here- thanks). Just to think of the days when it was once traveled by the Indians and our ancestors and pioneers back and forth through the southern regions and through Fayette County and into Westmoreland. And here is a veritable opportunity to do so and I expect you'll enjoy it
  --- Histbuffer

Contact Form


Email *

Message *