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....
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.