Sunday, March 30, 2014

An Update on Bullskin

  Hi all.

  NO, I know, this isn't the post I promised. Not quite yet. Bear with me, please.

  I do have a small, but special update.

  I thought it would be good to mention something about having attended the March 20 meeting of the Bullskin Historical Society and how I was impressed to see the Presentation given by Lannie Dietle from Texas.I had the satisfaction of meeting Kim Brown, the President too. Others include, Bonnie Brougher and Connie Rhodes, along with a special mention of the Treasurer, Beverly Quinn as I knew her and her husband, Bud and son, Rick, from when I was growing up. All fine people. I was almost embarrassed to be noted as the blogger of the resident local history sites. The small recognition was much appreciated and when I manage things time wise, I look forward to getting back for more and to talk to them again.

  According to their website, they started up in the late 90's and they use the old renovated stone cabin for their meetings. The ribbon cutting was in 2006. It was provided by donation of the Eutsey's who own the land around here on Park Road at the Mt. Vernon Furnace site.

       
courtesy of Bullskin Historical Society


The township itself began officially in 1794.

  Some of their projects are the Artesian Well, down the road, the Bell Monument and what is known as the 'Hemminger' Grist Mill on Keefer Rd off of Rt. 982, though it last went by the name of Spaugy's MIll before it went out of use altogether. I have an article with some info on it, as well as a few other posts you can find through the subject menu. By the way, their e-mail is here, so get in touch and become a part of history!

  Lannie's input was enlightening and just as informative as his e-mails have been over the past months, having the honor of collaborating with him. He is the author and researcher of a book about  "The Turkey Foot Road" and it was great for me to get to meet him here. He wrote a guest article for the blog a while back and knows a ton of stuff concerning his ancestry.
  
As he explains, ( but just very briefly here and not in his exact words), this very old road originates down from the Cumberland area in Maryland, crossing into Pennsylvania north and westward angling up through Somerset County. The TFR entered Fayette County near  Confluence,(most of Confluence is contained within Somerset County), eventually travellng through Normalville and Mill Run; it then ran along what is Quail Road and on between Breakneck and Spruce Hollow Roads, on toward the Country Club and angled down  near to the Fire Department at Woodale, passing northwest and working around Iron Bridge to Dexter Road in Upper Tyrone. On toward Mt. Pleasant, joining up with parts of the Braddock Road.

  That may sound forthright and fairly simple, but there were other disused branches along the way and barely discernible changes made in a lot of turns and twists. Lannie has much detailed material gathered for those more intrigued by it, as well as pointing out the whereabouts of many of the old taverns and wagon stands, etc., set up for the teamsters, stagecoaches, cattlemen and various others, starting, of course with the Indian trails themselves.

  Well, we got to question him, and he responded courteously to the inquiries. His co-author, Mike McKenzie was also there and Francis, another informative fellow from Somerset, familiar with the TFR in that area, traveled along with them. They are also connected with the Mount Savage Historical Society in Maryland run by Dan Lashley. They restored the old 'Union Mining Company' building there. It was a real nice time, with cake and coffee afterwards. I can honestly say, I was one of the last to leave, so that should give you an idea of how much it was enjoyed on my part. Very 'cool'. It was all very accommodating and I thank them for inviting me.

   There was even a second cousin I hadn't known of, and what a revelation it was meeting  him! We exchanged some stories of our family tree.This was particularly fascinating. Do you know how that feels? All I can say is, wow.

   So, it's always good to get away from the computer for a while, (not for too long :), and get out among folks that live near these places. It helps when they are so interested, like myself, in the region and it's history and make some friends too. The Society is so well informed and knowledgeable concerning their township. It was a winning trip, for me, hands down.

   Now, don't worry, I have an article coming very soon as I have to upgrade my computer and may be offline for a few days, so I want to get that much uploaded first. Better yet, I may just purchase a new one! We'll see...
   Take care.

    --- Histbuffer

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Notice and an Appeal

  Reluctant Admission


   For those that are easily bored with technicalities having more to do with various types of interactions concerned with a local history site, you can skip this first section.

   I make reference here, hesitantly, to something that has personally puzzled me deeply as of late and lastly, some congrats and an admission of my own are in order.
                                                                                                                                    
   Read on:

   Basically, my 'beef' is that it would appear there are a few Historical Society's, (I really would rather not name names), that simply do not answer e-mails directed to them, or return calls. Regardless of how this looks to others, that is certainly their business, of course. Is it really anybody else's?

  Well, with every intent to draw more attention to the local history of the surrounding landmarks in these areas, and make proper contact this can, indeed be a difficult pill to swallow. It is understood that open hours vary and in winter months it can slow down progress. Everyone, unless retired, have jobs to go to. We can sympathize. Though, I'm not necessarily an 'insider', at least as of yet, in the sense of putting years of time and effort into helping out with fundraising, scheduling trips and banquets, pooling talents and resources, I'm not surprised that takes a lot of strategic planning. This kind of group effort is not to be belittled and there are responsibilities that can't be neglected in such an undertaking and would soon imperil their existence. Meetings are very important and indispensable. Point taken.
 Subsequently, more notice should be taken and my hat is off to the results of their labors.

  Many of the historical societies have re-emerged or started up from scratch having their hands full in building strong local support. There is much interaction between them as well, which is a healthy bond and refreshing to learn of. Anyone would have to walk a mile or two in their shoes to know the amount of dedication that it must require to produce positive effects and the respect of a township or borough should be an established fact.

  Having said all that, if I haven't gotten more involved from that end, the blog is fairly new, yet nothing controversial. This is the niche I've chosen. I hope to make amends in that it has it's own quirks and to pay attention to detail that approaches a cautious attitude leads me to try to be more meticulous and conscientious. This is probably necessary to achieve a degree of success. Without much thought, or maybe actually being more thoughtful than giving yourself credit for, links are naturally provided in the posts and encourage viewers toward becoming aware of what they are really all about and follow on to these other quality sites.

Some facts about the blog and local history


  The blog, 'Westmoreland/Fayette Forgotten History' was meant as a kind of self help therapy for the traumatic loss of my parents within three months of each other, last year in April and July. It was planned with an air of anonymity that was unrealistic as an afterthought. But, the humble kernel it was created from quickly came to convey a long felt enthusiasm of history on all levels, and especially, right here in this region. A vague feeling, even as a teenager that the past is alive on some level. I won't deny I was a bit adventurous and a poetic type, given to much introspection and not likely to be compared to an overachiever. It was in the Dark Ages, (the 1970's folks), with no access to cell phones and the internet. It took imagination then. How did we cope? We couldn't miss what we never had.

  Many half known, old places are all around, with barely a name to tell of their origins, usage or fate. Maybe some of you, too, felt an abiding interest in antique traditions, some wisps of folklore; some rousing fishing and hunting stories with a few beers thrown in; listened breathlessly to tales of patriotic war episodes, wondered about the locations of old stores, mills and schoolhouses; fascinated by rumors of old taverns and stagecoaches and toll gates. A few of us are old enough to remember much that is gone. There are lost and forgotten things that took place as little as only 20 to 40 years ago.

  The stories our fathers, mothers, uncles and grandparents use to relate to us, when we bothered to pay close enough attention to their large fount of knowledge and wisdom; and then there are  the old photos. Many families are in possession of these treasures and it is lucky if there is any remembrance or a faded name scrawled to put with the dignified faces on them. None of this should be taken for granted. Keep tight those old heirlooms and books, half hazardly handed down to you! Alright, maybe this is overstating the case, still, some fine day when the dust and cobwebs are removed, they have a gift of impressing us of a special virtue. Truly, history starts at the hearth and home, branching out to end up in World Wars and peace treaties.

  This site has received a decent number of hits and I admit to feeling proud of this recent accomplishment. (If there is a place you want covered, make a request).  It was a grassroots experiment all the way and, no doubt, however minor the influence might be comparative to larger websites, this has been nothing less than a silver lining to some large storm clouds.

  So, I wanted to express that I do realize the situation with the Societies and the experts. If this is perceived as a 'new' kid on the block, so to speak, then, alright, that's the way it is. No problem. But, I'm not completely sure that's all there is to it. Things aren't always as they should be.

  Not being privy with exact connections to certain families and such long standing memberships, maybe an acknowledgement in my direction, however brief, is just too much to ask. I do want to make it clear that I understand and respect their traditions. My ancestry goes back a long way too. Stepping on anybody's toes would be highly inconsiderate of me and the last thing intended. But, to be ignored for whatever reason, that is one thing, to be snubbed, is definitely quite another.  A thick skin and a philosophical outlook can take you a good distance.

  Yes, I did feel slightly disappointed; specifically, when some overzealous officer in a Historical Society of note, decided to quickly remove a link to an article of mine recently uploaded on their Facebook page within a 24 hour period. Describing the very  town they live in, no less. Snobbery? Maybe a mistake? I don't know, it's possible. But the spirit of collaboration is not well served in this fashion. Any mutual attention this would garner is hampered. Is it an example of a rare, if blatant, obvious lack of cooperation? If so, that is unfortunate.

  Nothing resourceful can be gained by this attitude. Now, maybe things can change eventually. We will have to wait and see, while trying to keep open the lines of communication. I felt the need to get this off my chest and make no apologies for doing just that.

  Some Congratulations and a Small Confession


  Now there are those societies, authors and other organizations that are very open and welcoming to my blog and the supporting role I attempt to play. To present our past as is, to bring a further interest in publicizing these regions and things too long forgotten and often, woefully neglected. If this adds another dimension to tourism, that's great, though not the sole purpose.

  It is very pertinent that I express my profound appreciation to those that do open themselves to my researches, stories and photos, or allow a small quote or an historical marker.
Congratulations are in order. You know who you are.

  Clearly, the third part of this article is implicitly aimed at those that have cooperated in any way, and it hasn't gone unnoticed or been taken for granted here! It is a small service that I try to provide and find the subject fascinating. The basic staff is mostly, myself. Along with a car, computer and camera at my side. My one older brother has helped some when it comes to tips and a few areas he has more knowledge of. For this input and added insight, I do want to thank him here. Yes, you see, the blog is basic stuff and is the articles are purely on an educational level, so it hardly comes as a revelation there has been no financial profit involved.

  I confess right now, there is much for me yet to discover, mistakes to be corrected, stories to hear, many things to still learn plenty about and this does continue to excite as writing abilities slowly grow and to meet new people and gather feedback of all kinds from the good citizens from Fayette and Westmoreland counties and beyond. Without that element it would be less of a smooth journey down these main streets to the old back roads and it would seem a lot bumpier. It's a nice experience in gaining a better perspective to the places we live near, travel on, observe, criticize, admire, and wonder about daily.

  All of YOU that take the precious time to read the articles found here are of importance to the meaning contained within. Make no mistake. It is you that show interest and read up and I do desire to receive more of your input and ideas; corrections, when needed; your extra tidbits of info, or just an occasional 'tip'.  I must confess, this kind of thing has been lacking. Together we can change that.

 A Heartfelt Appeal


   With so much that has been revealed, I don't want it to seem the blog is about me, the writer behind the words and ideas, per se. I'm far from perfect. There is a page on my ancestors, I freely admit. I value them so highly and can't be expected to think differently. That post seemed fitting when you think about it, I guess. We all have ancestors, some tragically dying in battle, and most of us have relatives. Not just the few you may not be that inclined to visit, unless it's the holidays and there's no way out! So, feel free and send in anything you want on any form of regional info, even if it concerns your backyard or an old abandoned shed. I would be happy to publish your stuff or reply to your comments. If you can, try to do something to reach out to help this blog continue to find some success in reaching more viewers.  But not just for that purpose alone. Do it because your history is important, as well. It could be left behind and some day no one will remember.

  At least, I ask you to consider for own sakes in preserving something connected to your past. It might make the future more livable. Maybe you already have. Tell us about it.                              Whether it is to get more actively involved in your local community and state events, or just a simple thing, like taking a look around your attic or basement, finding some souvenir of grandma's house and maybe putting it up on the mantle for the kids to see. Call up, or e-mail another relative, or some cousin that you never met properly and say 'hello'. Pick up something a bit mysterious from the flea market or rescue an antique. keep an eye on your own familiar corner that is precious to you and your family. Visit the local places; the museums, zoos, the attractions nature has to offer. Find a kind word for an old neighbor once in a while. Even if he, or she is kind of gruff and touchy. Well, they could of had a tough life. There may be an area you have in common. Friendship can be enlightening. Contact is always sought out here, and you can write privately if you wish and should receive a prompt response. I won't tell. Communicate. That's mostly what a blog is for. Do it for your own sakes ever as much as this guy who you may not know at all.

  I appreciate being informed of anything interesting. Consider sharing your personal experiences and memories. That makes everything so much more meaningful too.

  Spring is here, sort of. It will warm up in a few days.

  A new article is in the works, so stay tuned. Thanks again.

  - Histbuffer

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snowy Stroll Through Scottdale, Pennsylvania

  

              

 

   An Honorable Mention

 

  Folks, this is going out to the 'Grand Army Of The Republic' Post 209 of the Civil War Era and named well, after the old Colonel. Ellsworth Park started in May of 1881. This is where genealogical material originated for my great, great, grandfather who participated in 20 battles and I am told, like many local veterans, was involved in the re-enactments staged here well into the 1900's and these proved very popular. Now wouldn't it be something if the community could muster such a spectacle once again. How many would love to be a part of that? Frankly, I'm still searching for more information on this special time and place. Sadly, the Park is long gone the way of many good things, having served it's purpose.

   I haven't got round to a photo close to there yet, but did want to upload this particular post before spring arrived! Every time I travel into town I somehow manage to forget my camera or, I am just plain distracted by something else.  Well, it would be proper to add here that any further input would be greatly appreciated.

   And how about this dough boy's story ?




 Historic District

 

 What eventually became the borough of Scottdale was named after the industrialist and railroader, Col. Thomas A. Scott, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad and an Assistant Secretary of the War Department for the United States. The year was 1874. Previously it was known as 'Fountain Mills'.

          



   In Scottdale, in East Huntingdon township, 35 Miles south of Pittsburgh, (according to some, as much as 48 miles!). It is 12 miles south of the county seat of Greensburg. There were settlements here as early as the late 1700's, many of them of Scotch-Irish ancestry and eventually a fairly large German population. This is called the Allegheny Plateau region of the Laurel Highlands; hope that makes things clear.

  By the mid-1800's the community began to develop with the selling of lots from the farmer Peter Loucks' descendants. An earlier settler, John Sterrett, acquired a lot of land and by 1786 was said to be visited south of here by none other than, Daniel Boone! Also, a tract was owned  by one Mr. Galloway prior to 1801 much of this related according to the Scottdale Historical Society. They do have a Facebook page.

   This foresight of the Loucks family lead to layouts of the early part of the town. The Jacob Loucks house on the corner of South Chestnut and Market Street, circa 1853, is considered the oldest house there. There are other Loucks houses in the neighborhood as well.

     
Jacob Loucks house



    The Lawrence Keister house at 1005 Loucks Ave is a brick prairie dwelling built in 1895. The Church of Christ at 513 is of Queen Anne /Colonial revival style with stained glass beveled windows and the main fa├žade originates from 1895. At 602, the W. E. Stauffer house with fluted columns and rusticated lintels is from that year. The A. K. Stauffer Queen Anne house at 701 with interesting corner towers and outbuilding, hails from 1880. The house at 804 has it's original windows, a bit of a rarity.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Round and About Near Ruffsdale

 

Ruffsdale and Central


    Hi all. We're back here with a history Post about a few places in and close to Ruffsdale in East Huntingdon Township on the Westmoreland side right along Route 31. Once known as 'Ruff's Station' because of the relation to the railroad and a connection with William Ruff. 

  There you will find the Ruffsdale Road and Dillinger Drive off of Rt. 31 with Railroad Street leading through Rocktown toward Central. Much strip mining and quarrying took place too.  Buttermore Road also heads north from here leading to Hunker and beyond. Interestingly, according to an old map, it appears there was a Toll Gate on Slate Cir. Rd. Jacob Leighty of 'Leighty Hollow Road', held a school on his farm in 1802. The Samuel Dillinger Distillery can be seen on old maps as being in operation in West Bethany about the mid 1800's before there was a bad fire and then he soon started it up again here. Daniel Dillinger, 1787-1845, started at the farm in Bethany and Samuel Dillnger stared distilling in 1882. he and his kin also had many coke ovens at Pennsville. At Tarrs Station they had 64 coke ovens and 51 at Hawkeye. That was before moving it to the Ruffsdale area where you can see the old building today. He, and his sons were certainly involved heavily with coke ovens and the railroad with more info here. They had connections to the Overholt's and the Louck's. A gist of this concerning their history can be also be gleaned from the 'History of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Volume 2', and 'Old and New Westmoreland, Volume 4', by John N. Boucher
  
   The old Dillinger Whiskey Distillery....

Dillinger Distillery

                                    I hear that it's for sale! That's a lot of windows to replace.

  Now is an appropriate time for a few lines about the area called Central, very near Ruffs Dale and Tarrs. There was much more going on back when there were still coke ovens and this place was being mined in the late 1800's and early 1900's right next to, and basically, including, Tarrs also. You can't hardly miss this one, it's near Central Road. That's it. This bears on to Central Mine Circle and the area of many coal patch houses. There were also coke ovens and, apparently, some mining. And this was also the case past Bethany, coming from the Ruffsdale-Alverton Road and toward the Leighty Hollow Road years ago. There are still said to be some signs of this in the nature of the darkened fields around here, if you look closely. Work must of been hard in those times, but some would say at least there were jobs then! (There are some old photos available on the internet). There was also a company store in Central and it even had it's own ball team too. When driving past there you can get an idea of the lots, though it may seem a little difficult to place everything and it must of given a different appearance then; but, some of the houses are still there.

   A comprehensive site with much in the way of information on the various mines and coke ovens all around here and includes names of many of the miners you'll find linked up from  'In Tarrs'; ( it leads to the fine Roots web site on ancestry.com, so consider giving it a look).

   Of course, this isn't more than a hop and a skip away from the old Chrysler/Volkswagen of America/Sony Technologies plant, (not necessarily going by those exact names in that order), now called the RIDC Westmoreland Technology Building on old Rt. 119. Sitting on 1200 acres, it produced over 1 million vehicles from 1978-1988 and Sony manufactured a prolific amount of televisions from 1990-2008 of various kinds, with a glass plant across the road and a distribution center operated out of the old Wards building. In older history, which is somewhat favored on my site, this area was once a swamp that was seriously considered for a park. With the whiff of industry came the draining of most of the rare swampland that held Jacobs Cabin on the east side by West Tech Drive. Here the Braddock Road went by, as the colonial army passed through on to the north west to a fateful day at Braddock's Field.

   Things went well here for a small time for Chrysler, then with the Americanization of the Rabbit, in particular, there was criticisms, along with the stiff competition from Japanese small cars and other factors, including parts shipped from West Virginia. As well the wild cat strikes, gas pricing, amid charges of discrimination, which all were said to of led to the decline and sale made over to the Sony company. This eventually caused the experience of some of the same like problems; partly concerned with competitors and change overs from the CRT models and flat screens to Plasma products, before finally leaving the area too. A sad event.

   When you think about it, though, there was a tremendous amount of production and quite a lot of jobs here and it has seen quite a few famous people from all walks of life in and out of it's doors, including Pittsburgh sports figures. This was a real boom time for the area.

  RIDC is indeed a large group of buildings, including a C U P, (Central Utilities Plant). They have acquired the Leeds contract, DNP is there, (the old Sony Chemical group), a solar power business that went bankrupt, Aquion Energy that produces batteries, WCCC's Advanced Technologies are upgrading in the southeast side; also, from the old Williamhouse is Cenvio, I believe. The whole place has seen it's share of business over 30 some odd years and still has some operations in the works with other companies on the site. It would be good to see it grow and expand once more, as it certainly appears to be doing.

  As for Ruffsdale, there is a Post Office there as well only about a mile from the one at Tarrs, which is unusual. Be sure to keep an eye out for the traffic around it, as there are a few, somewhat busy roads branching off nearby. The D. L. Ruff homestead is just a ways down Rt. 31 toward Mt. Pleasant. There is more here than some may be aware of, such as a U-Haul Dealer, J L Screen Printing service, Aaron and Associates, Barnhart's, etc.

   And let's not forget to make some mention of old Snydertown near to here: a small area practically within Tarrs near C&C Lumber and the Fire Hall. I do humbly confess to not knowing too much about it really.
                     
road leading to Snydertown
                
     And there is also a small village that was named Feree nearby to Central where many of the coke ovens were.

    As stated, this is all about 3 miles from the borough of Hunker and close to the 'control city' of New Stanton off of I-70 with a lot of conveniences and hotels and fast food shops for a weary traveler, but AGAIN-watch these roads, they're really busy and the place is oddly enough, minus any traffic lights.

   Well, hopefully, we can return here at another time when we have a bit more information. If, by chance, any of you have stories, photos or even rumors of this place then, by all means, feel free to comment or send an e-mail. The little villages are all snuggled up together with various tidbits of history concealed deeply within.

    By the way...does anyone have any idea about 'East' Bethany ? (I didn't really think so; you can disregard that one). We do know West Bethany was up 117 going toward Alverton where the Dillinger's had the early farm and mills.

   There are also a few old fragmented stories of Indians and arrowheads round about these hills , though nothing definite has been related to sink your teeth into. It is known, however, that Capt. Jacobs, (Tewea), the famous Native American chief of the Delaware's who was killed in 1756 in Armstrong's raid on Kittanning, it is seriously claimed that he kept a base right here. There gas been some debate whether this is the same Capt. Jacobs or even his son. This place had extensive swampland before reclamation, as did the Greenlick Dam area of the 'Great Swamp' even more so,  in Bullskin. Well, that wet, dismal place in Ruffsdale was said to be once known as "Captain Jacob's Swamp". Whether there is any stock in it, his father was said to be a French fur tapper too. He died by the hand of Colonel Armstrong in Kittanning, but that is a bit of another story.

part of Capt. Jacob's Swamp
        
    And not to be totally facetious...what exactly didn't happen on the Old Maids Road ? ? ?

Old Maids Road courtesy of Google Maps
     
    Alright, this is another post for you to ponder over for a while.

   I'll remind people once more that, if you live in this area and have information to relate, that would be greatly appreciated.

   ~ Histbuffer

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