Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pennsville and Moyer

 Welcome back, folks. 

   The basic purpose of this article is to take a step back and cover, once again,  a region of smaller, simpler places. These are to be found under the heading of Hamlets. While these type of posts may not be as prominent in importance or of quite as serious an interest for the majority of visitors, they are picturesque and nostalgic while offering a clear path into the average community in times past as well as our modern age. Such realms exist as the true heart of a bygone American culture and its special traditions. These villages took on a very insular yet meaningful existence worth learning about and remembering. Those that often spent most of their precious lives growing up, getting married and raising their children in a rather special, cloaked, rural environment are sometimes here recalled to memory.

   Although it may be only a minor issue, I had planned to include more research material, but needed to get the new Fayete/Westmoreland Forgotten History post uploaded. In other words,"it is what it is."  It is to be hoped the subject will still be of some enjoyment helping lead to an educational experience. Thanks for your understanding and continued support!



      Pennsville, the oldest village of Bullskin Township going back toward the late 1700's,  is situated on the Mount Pleasant Road, sometimes called 'old 119.' There were lots sold off years ago from the Cochran and Strickler farms and it is still a small village of a few dozen or so houses and a handful of stores near Crossroads. Like many an old mining community, there was once a post office kept by David Shallenberger, while it had its a general store or two and the odd tavern and an inn kept by Adam Frazer, which served as the office of the bustling stagecoaches.

     In the earliest days the first store was run by John Strickler, in what was called the "present Miller stand." Other merchants included: the Overholt's, Bougher's, Newcomer's, Rice Boyd and John Campbell. 

Old Pennsville

      According to most information which is admittedly somewhat limited, the Pennsville Mine was located near the exit of Rt. 119 in Pennsville and west of Everson. As far as can be discovered, and as would be expected, the coke ovens were near the railroad and some were none too distant from Sherrick Rd. Photos are scarce, (particularly at this time of year for any coke oven remnants). According to G. D. Albert, in 1881, along with other properties, the Tintsman's bought the Pennsville Coke-Works and owned them for some time. In 1890, the mines were run  by J. D. Sherrick with J. F. Dillinger, who was one of its superintendents. Near the turn of the last century, the Pennsville Coke Company had nearly 100 beehive coke ovens. In the late 1800's and early 20th Century, all through this strip of land existed many groups of mines and coke ovens accessed by the railroads.


      On the map above are added highlights giving a basic representation of the loss and changing of a few Pennsville road ways from the 1800's. This is especially the case from the creation of Route 119 which is shown in yellow: The road between Valley View Drive and the Mount East Road which has not existed for some time is referenced in more detail with extra information on a link below.

Possible mine locality near Rt. 119.




Everson Rt. 118 overpass in Pennsville.


Pennsville looking to the west.

     The houses of reverent worship included Pennsville United Methodist Church, from 1895, once the "Little church on the hill." It was remodeled somewhat with better brickwork in the mid-1940's and again later with white siding. Further toward east on the border with Upper Tyrone was the Pennsville Mennonite Church. Ground was broken for a log meetinghouse ministered to by Abraham Stauffer with a burial ground in the mid-1790's while there was also a schoolhouse. By 1903, a later brick church was removed and all that was left to examine for posterity is the Alte Menist cemetery. I referred to the site some time ago on a post researching the Lost Cemetery on the Braddock Road.

    Finally, last but not least, is the Pennsville Baptist Church across the Richey Road from the Methodist going back to the forgotten era of the very early 1800's. The name then was the 'White Meeting House'. More on that further on. It is said there are over 700 people who attend the church in modern times.

In the Pennsville Mine region.
The coke ovens to the west of the railroad became few in number.

Looking south on the Mount Pleasant Road
This stretch of Richey Road approached a once populated locality of the village.

The modern 'end' of Richey Road.

     Interesting Footnote to Pennsville 

     All the information I've gathered concerns the claim that Bushrod Washington had purchased land said to of once belonged to one 'George Washington'. Or, so his name was attached to a property by tradition, in Pennsville, within the confines of Bullskin Township, Fayette County, Pa.

    Early on, plots originated from land sold off from the Cochrane and fairly extensive Strickler farms. If, indeed,  he actually lived there and for how long, is debatable, even doubtful, for all that. Nevertheless, a snippet of "Fayette County Survey of Boroughs and Unincorporated Townships" stated that this nephew of George Washington put up a house near the Disciple's Meeting House in Pennsville, near the later Baptist Church  in 1848 as did Henry Shallenbarger; although the details appear unlikely, unless we are dealing with a relative or a murky recollection.

   Bushrod was noted to of passed on by 1828. The idea may be an interesting one, yet hasn't been researched extensively as far as I am aware. On one hand, while it is true that Supreme Court Associate Justice, Bushrod Washington, the inheritor of the famed Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, who was known to have lived much of his later life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - it is indeed a novel concept as as assertion of fact on supposedly good authority that he actually lived anywhere close to the area in question for any amount of time, especially at this late date. It is feasible the main claim originates with historian Franklin Ellis, at the old White Meeting House among such attendees as Jacob Lobengier, Christian Shank and Andrew Rees and his wife, was none other than Bushrod Washington! I thought some of you might find that a fascinating consideration, as did I, especially under the circumstances.



      Moyer is a small community roughly 2 miles south of Connellsville not very far from the boundary line between Upper Tyrone and Bullskin townships. There was once the Progressive Coal Co. among others, and are still  a few other businesses like Snyder's Automobile Garage and the U-Haul establishment that I myself used when moving almost four years ago.

    The village of Moyer held what was in some respects a larger operation than that at Pennsville, since in 1880 feasibly near its peak, Mt. Pleasant's native, John Moyer, built up the Grace works which had over 400 coke ovens. Moyer also had the Eldorado Coke Works which may be directly related to those previously mentioned. For comparison, this was as many as the Morewood operation and roughly half as many as the very large volume of ovens at the Standard Works in Mount Pleasant to the north. While most of these mines and ovens were no longer functioning by the middle of the last century, some, like Leisenring No. 2 with the H. C. Frick Co. still had 500 coke ovens, while Central maintained 300, and Standard held at 277 by 1956.


Railroad tracks leading toward the coke ovens.



   On a personal note, I found that my great grandmother, Mary (Miner) Wilson, who at the time resided in a corner of Pleasant Valley up Rt. 982 from the Moyer region. She once owned land near the Kells Schoolhouse where the Bullskin Township Elementary School sits today. This was listed as in Moyer. I believe the property was subsequently sold in the 1940's.

   Beyond this, a relative of mine with a sharp memory for things of this nature has brought to my awareness that my grandpap, Meryl Wilson, who while I was young and for many years previous, resided at Wooddale, said he had a job as a bricklayer, at the once busy Moyer Station. My brother also informs me of the family tradition  that he did most of the work himself. This was undertaken for the price of one cent a brick; this was probably a tidy sum in those days.


   They Soisson Fire Brick Co. was operated at Moyer Station which was the main hub of the area, across from Sheetz. This establishment was on the same side and below the old Blue Ridge Restaurant, now a small, self-serve gas station. The company was also known as "The Southwest Fire-Brick Works" according to Franklin Ellis' in his book, "History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania" and his year for completion is 1871. Seventeen employees were under the supervision of Anthony Sourd. With 4 ovens, they had the capacity of producing eight thousand fire-bricks daily; quite enough to build a good house!

    Moyer itself is just below the hills which are blocked in by what was the Southwestern Pennsylvania Railroad, now operated by Conrail. The location lies along the four lane of Rt. 119, by Irishman's Run. Of the many small, quaint railroad stations nearby were, Broadford, Tintsman's, Everson, Fountain Mills, (or Scottdale), and West Overton. That is just a few of the closer ones.


     In 1932, the Soisson Brick Yard was up for tax assessment for being delinquent of a whopping $355. It was owned by Joseph Soisson, who, along with Worth Kilpatrick, had built the majority of the works. I'm not positive of whether it was sold at that time, but it seems likely. There were many coke ovens, in fact, many of the old ovens are still there. I have a photo (somewhere), but I hadn't  located this yet, so I took a picture with so many trees that,I'm afraid the view doesn't show any!

    Regardless, fire-brick was manufactured in Fayette County as far back as 1830. Much of the brick was either loaded onto railroad cars or transferred to flat boats and floated down the Yough River to the Pittsburgh area for use in coke ovens, furnaces, and mills.

    There are various compositions the bricks could be used for with two basic types: plastic (or soft) clay of a hard, fine grain, and flinty (or quartz) clay, which is more pliable. The material was placed in metal pans and while rollers were surrounding the clay, streams of water were aimed at it with precision to produce the required consistency. It is then taken out and molded and heat-dried. Afterwards the bricks are burned in kilns up to five days and are ready for market.

              On the above photo of the brick works can also be seen the coke ovens in the background.                                           
Moyer toward the south.

     An a major point of interest concerns both villages with their mines and coke ovens this is the basic thrust of info provided which may not be all that surprising, considering the underlying geography of the Connellsville Coke Seam throughout so much of this region.

     As noted at the beginning of this post, I really wanted to make a better assessment of the mine and coke oven localities in themselves, but the foliage and access is still a bit of a problem.  I do possess a map I had highlighted of a few roads in Pennsville which have been lost or just abandoned and wiped out along with a bunch of old homes and buildings when the Route 119 four lane was laid out, but I haven't yet located the ideal one, so a replacement is used instead. A plan is sort of in the works for an attempt to add this material at a later time, so, feel free to comment and please do,



And then again, there are what is still exposed of those old paved brick roads...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gallavanting In Greensburg

   Welcome back to F/WFH for another installment. In the post below we will be concerning ourselves with the basic structure of the history of Greensburg, located in Westmoreland County in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania.

   A county seat of this magnitude holds so much voluminous and detailed historical matter in so many areas: sports, architecture, government, churches, activities, stores, cemeteries, schools, and many noted figures, such as distinctive and important industrialists, the form of a condensed outline has been chosen as most convenient while hopefully managing to provide a basic assessment of a special place that has been neglected to this point.


     Newtown and Jacktown

  The origins of this city began not long after the destruction of the original county seat, Hannastown, the first west of the Allegheny Mountains established in 1773 by Robert Hanna. Such concerned the site of the famous Hanna's Town Resolves of 1775 in many ways mirroring the soon to arrive,  Declaration of Independence to defend their God given rights against the oppression of the British. The event of the unfortunate loss of the town was accomplished in 1782 by Guyasuta and the Seneca Indians along with the French Canadians. After much bickering between other regions as well, by 1785 "Newtown" became the new county seat. The next year saw the building of the original Westmoreland County Courthouse in what is the heart of the Greensburg Downtown Historic District.

    The decision-making process of those times took much foresight and care in choosing the exact whereabouts of a new county capital; indeed, exposure to the elements, dangerous or hostile situations or indigenous tribes,  river commerce, quality of woodland and soil, popularity or lack of by citizens of the surrounding community, the keen ideas of investors, prior settlements, even scenery, and many more issues need be addressed and soon resolved; ideally, in the favor of the majority. The nearness of Fort Ligonier as well as the Forbes Road and Glades Path would surely be an example of two major factors in leaning hard toward this favored spot. The fact that by 1786 there were four taverns with capabilities of good provisioning and the comfort of an inn or two, certainly helped, though there were other factors in choosing this county seat as well: mainly that newly appointed commissioners, Benjamin Davis, Hugh Martin and Michael Rugh lived on or very near to the Forbes Road having a personal interest leading to the decision.

    By the year 1799, Jedidiah Morse in the American Gazeteer, described the city thus: "Greensburg, a post town and the capital of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. It is a neat, pretty town situate on a branch of Sewickly Creek which empties into Youghiagany River. Here are one hundred dwelling houses, a German Calvanist Church, a brick Court House and stone jail." In the days of wagons, moving families, stage coaches, and soon - to - come toll houses, you needed an insular place of worship for the faithful and it was a must in being able to lock up the thieves and rowdies.

  From the humble beginnings near the ending of the Revolutionary War of an inn built near an old wagon trail; this old road later became known as Penn Avenue. Early in its long history, Christopher Truby was the main founder of ol' Newtown, named after the count seat of his former home he emigrated from by 1772, Bucks County. In the early 1800's this was known as the Greensburg or Pittsburg Pike, a toll road completed in 1818. It slowly took on prominence after much debate and was accepted as the new county seat. This proud city was named after Major General Nathaniel Greene of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. The old jail was the corner of Pittsburgh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Most of the area north of Pittsburgh Street and west of Penn., Avenue were owned by Ludwig Otterman. Dutch Town was the section from West Pittsburgh Street to Vannear Avenue and Irish Town was further on the eastern hill of Pittsburgh Street.

 A sad reality concerns the sidewalk of the future courthouse site containing the market house which was also used as an auction block for the sale of slaves. This was finally dismantled by 1854.

 One of the busiest of the toll gates in Greensburg was on top of Chestnut Ridge between the city and Stoyestown at least from the 1820's through the 1830's with over 38,000 horses bustling through in the first year alone .


  There were many areas of southwestern Pennsylvania deeply involved in the Whiskey Rebellion, including Pittsburgh, yet here were many distillers in many parts of the city of Greensburg, possibly the most toward Hempfield Township, which issues of this sort surrounded and inflamed. . That being the case, it is interesting to read that in a September Term of Court for 1795 various persons were tried on an indictment for a riot committed the year before, "in besitting the doors and windows and of the house of Simon Drum  in the town of Greensburgh, throwing stones etc. at the doors and windows with intent to beat, wound, tar and feather and evilly entreat Jaspar Yeates and William Bradford, Comissioners on the part of the United States, and Thomas McKean and William Irwin, Commissioners on the part of the State of Pennsylvania, to confer with thew citizens west of the mountains." According to the PA Archives, most were convicted, but first were deposited in the gaol and later 'exhibited' to the town, being marched through the town in the thick mud. These guys were later pardoned by Governor Mifflin. Maybe the shame of slogging around the streets continually was thought enough punishment.

  The militia leader and one of the major founders of the city, William Jack, had written to the governor that many of the people were adverse to the duty on spirits and basically proceeded to blame the Germans to an extent that they were extremely unwilling in the process and this appeared because they were ignorant of the language.

The Westmoreland County Courthouse on Main Street.

    The Westmoreland County Courthouse sits on Main Street, approaching near the top of the hill. It stands 175 feet and is the fourth courthouse, built in 1906 and designed by architect, William S. Kaufman, who was, coincidentally, born to Pennsylvania native parents. The oldest courthouse was, first, a log structure built from 1786 or 1787, depends on what is your source material, and the next was demolished in 1854, followed by the third, demolished in 1901.

   What may surprise many, in those much freer times, advertisements were made in the local papers to gather at the courthouse of the early 1800's to partake in meetings of various 'divine services' and preachers let loose with the sermons and preaching of reverends such as, James Estep, William M'Kindrey and Curtis Clay. So much for the modern notion of the separation of church and state!

                           General Nathanael Greene

Nathanael Greene, by C. W. Peale

    Born in Potowomut, Phode Island, where he became a statesman in the early 1770's and a member of the Kentish Guards, Nathanael Greene, (July 27, 1742-June 19, 1786), the illustrious  and prominent Revolutionary hero the General Greene Hotel was once named after near the turn of the last century, was the man Greensburg, Pennsylvania,  as well as Greene County, is so aptly settled on for its moniker. He was descended from Quaker Immigrants ho left Salisbury, England in 1635 for the New World. On arriving in Boston  by May of 1775, he was quickly made a Brigadier-General by June. He soon transformed from an initial defeat and loss through inexperience of Fort Washington on the banks of the Hudson to an endearing force lasting for eight years of service. In spite of the disrespect from Congress of his humble beginnings, his fame was abiding, service broad, and his loyalty deep. Greene reportedly died of sunstroke when his life was cut short at his Georgia home of Mulberry Grove, north of Savannah, though there may of been other complications from ailments such as asthma.

    As Alexander Hamilton stated it best at a Fourth of July, 1789 Eulogium on the death of the Major- General of the Continental Army, "To commemorate the talents, virtues, and exploits of great and good men... We seem to appropriate to ourselves the good they have done, to take a personal interest in the glory they have acquired, and to share in the very praise we bestow." He goes on to recall his exertions at Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth, Springfield, and tough battles as at Guilford Courthouse, Greensboro, North Carolina the import of his last command in the south; he goes on to demonstrate "that he was an accomplished master in the science of military command." With Morgan's genuine experience and tactics, while describing some of the more minor players, which, though Hamilton doesn't dwell on it for long, included the brave provisional militias of Marion, Sumter and Pickens and the factors of their enduring harassment of British troops in South Carolina, Hamilton gives worthy tribute to the deliverance of Greene's overall actions in Cornwallis's retreat to Charleston and on to Yorktown. By the way, some of this information and other details about the county seat of Westmoreland County has been related on the post "Origins of the Counties of southwestern PA.

    General Cornwallis once made the claim that,

   "Greene is more dangerous than Washington. I never feel secure when encamped in his neighborhood."

Old photo of Greensburg. The year is uncertain.

Into The Modern Era

    Like many of the cities,  towns and hamlets of the surrounding region, for various economic reasons, particularly the final closing of Greengate Mall in 2001, which was begun with so many quality stores in 1965, (not so in recent times), with the loss of Horne's and then Montgomery Ward. Soon we had the opening of the Westmoreland Mall in 1977 to help forget! But, if you are a near native of the region and old enough, like myself, you probably hold a few fond memories of visiting The Bon Ton, Waldenbooks, G.C. Murphy's, Spencer Gifts, Sweet Williams and RadioShack, among others, or just roaming the aisles with my brothers in the 1970's; this was THE cool place to go and to be seen! Some of these stores still exist in other neighborhoods or in other forms, under different names.


    Seton Hill College was a women's college. It was founded in 1885 by the Sisters of Charity. Now known as Seton HIll University, it has been coed since 2002, being closely involved in mobile information technology, health and the natural sciences and visual and performing arts. It provides a dynamic campus atmosphere. The University of Pitt-Greensburg is a state related regional institution first established in 1963 and was voted the "Best University in the Region" eight straight years. The Bobcats are the athletic teams and they also engage the Ben Franklin Society. Originally located across from St. Clair Park, it is now two miles to the south in Hempfield Township and with 22 buildings on a space of 219 acres the university can indeed boast of much academic achievement. By the way, there are many schools and cultural landmarks which I won't be going into here.

     Don't let the above statement bother you much - the athletic and sports history of the city and nearby environs would deserve a post of their own. Even the healthcare industry is to be highly enumerated. No, I'm not going to get started on all that, sorry.

      Arthur St. Clair

Arthur St. Clair Monument

    Now we are taking a brief step back to the old days for a paragraph or so as I feel something needs to be related about St. Clair Park. Early on, it was moved to its present location toward the east, yet holds the statue and tomb of a notable figure in Arthur St. Clair. This Revolutionary General, a true patriot of the State of Pennsylvanian with much service and accumulated merit that later became a local here, was covered with much other material over three years gone by in a 2014 post providing a more in depth biography of this sometime hero, sometimes crticized man.

    While St. Clair's various war efforts in serving his country should of brought with him a certain celebrity he lived in nearby Youngwood under the sad distress of many difficulties while retiring in the County of Westmoreland.  He accumulating large debts and had to sell much of his property,  ending up as a tavern keeper.


     The city has surely taken renewed pride in the fact that a unique statue of Nathanael Greene by Chris Fagan was unveiled in the year 2000. He sstands, symbolically, all in bronze, in the depths of  St. Clair Park.

     The city is made up of eight wards, one of which, 'Bunker Hill' was actually named for the rowdy, wild fights at the Bushfields Tavern of the mid- nineteenth century, said to remind the surrounding folks of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Yep, so they say.

    Back in 1905, three neighborhood boroughs were absorbed into the county seat. These were: Ludwick, of East Greensburg, Paradise, of Southeast Greensburg, and Kinderhook to the north which includes the neighborhoods of Academy Hill, Country Club Meadows, Evergreen Hill, Saybrook Village, etc.

    Greensburg Station, back behind the courthouse, once served heavily by the Pennsylvania Railroad when opened in 1912, while PennDot's last servicing pretty much came to an end by late 2005, and it is now only the Amtrak 'Pennsylvanian' rail station as the old choo-choos are gone but not forgotten. The portico and structure retains a classy Flemish bond pattern topped by an ornamental clock tower and overall it is of the quaint Jacobean Revival style.

The old Greensburg Station

     What was once the West Penn Railways trolley headquarters, now houses City Hall. Despite visits by famous Democrats running for office for many a year, this was the original site of of the first National Republican Party Convention in 1854.

   Yes, Greensburg has seen it's share of depression in the last quarter century or so. In spite of this reality,  the city has found a way to thrive in major tourism, culture and business. There are many memories, as well. It is seventh in Pennsylvania in daytime growth and 16th for the same category in the United States.

     The Downtown Historic District consisted of many notable buildings from 1872-1930. The District was home to a significant commercial center as well as an important station of the Pennsylvania Railroad first initiating service here in 1852, and the headquarters of the now long gone West Penn Railways trolley system, now City Hall. Before the days of automobiles, the street cars served many smaller communities to the south and east. The Greensburg Railway Station on Harrison Avenue, (named for our ninth President, William Henry Harrison), had its one-story structure by 1860, then a large, impressive building developed by architect William Holmes Cookman, which was opened in 1912 to some fanfare. It is of the Jacobean Revival style and topped with a fairly unique clock tower. Made of red brick of Flemish Bond pattern, it served different purposes and an Amtrak Station in later years, finally taken up as a restaurant.

    Another important area is the Academy Hill Historic District lying between North Main and North maple Avenue and consisting of 63 acres. Some of its main attractions would be the Huff Mansion at 424 North Main St., a Georgian revival building built in 1900 now hoe to the YWCA, the unique shape of the Clawson House on North Maple, the Aquinas Academy, an elementary school, and an aged 1840 structure at 333 Walnut Avenue.

   Penn Avenue is the main route from the west to downtown Pittsburgh and the Gateway Center and Point State Park, also the oldest street in Pitssburgh. This was, in part, a meaningful ingredient in its eventual and continued success.

   Among the many department stores once regularly visited by eager customers to Main Street like,  J. C. Penny's and Sears, the one I recall the most was Troutman's in company with my mom and grandmother, riding the escalators from one department to another.

     The Westmoreland County Historical Society with its useful Calvin E. Pollins Memorial Library (free of charge)  and the Edward H. Hahn Archives is located at 362 Sandhill Rd. Suite 1, Greensburg, 15601, are a dedicated group. Hours are, Tuesday - Friday, 9-5 p. m. They can be contacted by mail concerning research. The Society contains much information and their resources should be quite helpful.

Drops of rain on Main Street in a recent trip to Greensburg

  South Greensburg 

   The Borough of South Greensburg was once known as Rughstown, settled on a farm by Michael Rugh in 1780. The 229 acres was later inherited by his grandson, Peter Rugh. The Rugh House, said to be the oldest extant building within Greensburg, replaced an older building and sits at 1213 Broad Street. In 1881, on land acquired earlier from the Rughs, George Huff sold the property to the Greensburg Coal and Coke Company which also had a mine and brickwaork. Later, this went by the name of the Keystone Coal and Coke Co. By the late 1880's there were many houses built in which the locality became known as Huff, or Huffstown.

    A location in South Greensburg down the slope of the hill was once known as the 'Bullet Field', because tradition claimed it was the area used by the locals for target practice.


SouthGeensburg area

    A trolley line ran north through Broad Street soon after and was later controlled by the West Penn Railways up until 1952. By 1892 the community was incorporated under the present name. During the Westmoreland County coal strike of 1910-1911, much ill will and even violence was experienced and perpetrated between the Jamison Coal and Coke Company and a group of striking miners in which one miner was shot by the company security. Unusual circumsyances soon developed as the Chief of Police, William Keltz, when attempting to apprehend the shooter, was himself arrested by the constables under the direction of security personnel.

   A prominent factory begun in 1888 which existed for nearly one hundred years there was eventually known as Walworth Valves. This major employer had at least one Huff on the board of directors and sat near the Route 30 Bypass on Huff Street. At one time employing 1500 people, the huge complex straddled 31 acres by the railroad. Some of the buildings which remained could recently be seen in the area.

So Many Places

    There are certainly other parts of Greensburg, particularly Southwest Greensburg, with thoroughly interesting and exciting backgrounds of their own unique descriptions, many of which may simply have to be covered at a future time. Very many places and establishments remain, but quite a few are gone or vanished, never to return. Like the Children's Palace, the Piano Company, the Family Bar Tavern, Marzano Tailors, Wilson's Candy CO., (ahem, no relation), the Penn Albert shops and The Coach House. Still, there are really too many to list.

    So, while what remains and is in functional order, a good option would be to check out the official website of the city of Greenburg and find out what's been happening. But, if you can manage the effort, do yourself a favor and take a drive through the historically impressive aspects of a great city and see a choice of the sights. Who knows, visitors may even run into Mayor Robert Bell!

Near Main and Fourth Street

     Thanks for stopping by! I hope some of you learned something entertaining, yet valuable, especially persons not personally associated with this fascinating region. Positive comments or tidbits of information on specific subjects are always welcome and encouraged regardless of what area of history concerns you most. So, leave your feedback, and if you enjoyed the article in some form, PLEASE do consider leaving a word in the Comment Section!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Regional Historians of the Nineteenth Century

     It is good to be 'back' with another post for Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History.

    As an introduction, I will begin by briefly advising you not to pass this post by on any account. In truth, this is NOT really a boring, drab post, folks. Trust me on this one. Finding proper photos was a problem, especially considering copyrights, so I didn't get too far in that respect.

    There were a few other historians of note, some of a more minor level, which I planned on covering, although there was some difficulty in locating quality information on their background. That being the case, I chose to only include those grand gents that proper research material wasn't too difficult to gain about and were the more pertinent to this post. Historians and folklorists, like Henry W. Shoemaker, were left out basically because we are mainly concerned with biographies which best encapsulate those deeply involved in this region; specifically, Fayette and Westmoreland counties.


   Nothing less would be worthy of the honor due to their position as true guardians and forebears of Western Pennsylvania. Please, read on:

   James Hadden


   According to the "Acts and Proceeds Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies", published in 1905, Mr. Hadden wrote the "The History of Uniontown", in 1913. I suppose it goes without saying, I have read it, along with other volumes by these distinguished gentlemen. He also  edited the book "The Monongahela Of Old", although much of his writing appears to be original ideas prepared by James Veech on older sources compiled by himself and adapted by Hadden and presented in his own unique way. This historian and antiquarian was a native of Uniontown, Pa. was the fourth son of Armstrong and Jane Hadden, born on the 17th of August, 1845.

   His father was a county seat postmaster; he was of Scottish descent, going back to the Isle of Mull and the region of Scone, seat of crowing kings. His family came here soon after the establishment of the county of Fayette back in 1783. His grandfather, Thomas, became a lawyer in 1795 and so he naturally followed in those prominent  footsteps. He also descended from Col. Alexander McClean, the famous surveyor involved with running the Mason and Dixon line as well as a member of the Supreme Executive Council of the state. (Much of this information derives from John Jordan's PENNSYLVANIA book of 1914 of the "Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography"). Young James went to Waynesburg College and was a photographer for fifteen years, then pushed for a memorial park and monument to General Braddock. He was happily married in 1872.

   G. D. Albert

    George Dallas Albert, as far as what I have been able to find out, wrote, or should I say, actually is credited as the editor of "History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, with biographical sketches of many of its prominent men" of 1882 with a total of 966 pages. Also, "Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania" as well as "The Frontier Forts of Western Pennsylvania" Volume 1, written in 1896. This included reports of John M. Buckalew, J. Gilfillan Weiser, etc. All in all, a very thorough and insightful study. The last volumes were contained in the prestigious Harvard College Library from August 17, 1903.

    As an example of what can be found in these writings, Albert's story basically begins with Celeron's 1749 journey down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and back again and the planting of leaden plates in the name of the King of France, leading on to Du Quesne, Le Boeuf, Fort Necessity and Fort La Fayette, Fort Pitt, Fort Allen, Trent's efforts at Redstone and beyond which went some way to counteract the Royal Grant to the Ohio Company of the English of 1748. Conversely, this was partly designed to divert the french occupation. Washington's dispatching to the Ohio country in 1753 began the serious efforts to gain the control of the region and Forbes and Bouquet did much to end the French and Indian obstinacy to control the area and the eventual opening up of Pennsylvania and acquiring the land with proper claims of their own. This friction caused much of the future rivalry and quickly led to the creation of the various forts under examination in Albert's intensive treatment of the subject.

    According to John Newton Boucher's, "History of Westmoreland County", of 1906, pg. 369, Albert was born in Youngstown, Westmoreland County in 1846, appropriately enough, and admitted to the legal bar in 1869. A polite, retiring, yet intelligent gentleman; "he has done more to unearth and perpetuate the history of Western Pennsylvania, and particularly of Westmoreland County, than any other man living or dead." He was a frequent writer of in depth and perceptive newspaper articles, it was considered assured that when he examined a subject it received a painstaking investigation, indeed. He developed cancer and died in 1898 being buried in Latrobe.

    Judge James Veech

    The Esquire usually accompanying his name indicates this man was a successful attorney of the bar of Fayette and Allegheny counties. The epithet of 'judge' was conferred on him through his esteem and popularity. He also wrote various article s along with "Washington's and Braddock's Expeditions", a small volume covering the incidents on a subject of historical import. He was born in Menallen township, Fayette County on Sept. 18, 1808. He then graduated from Jefferson College in Canonsburg, going on to represent the legal profession and did so in Uniontown until 1834 before moving on to Pittsburgh and becoming the Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County and later returned to Fayette County to practice law. He was actively interested in various proceedings, a dignified man of profound ability, retiring in 1872 and furthering his studies in history and literature. He died near Pittsburg in 1879, buried in Union Cemetery, and should be able to figure out the whereabouts of this place. After a Mr. Freeman Lewis gave up on his researches from 1850, this was taken over by the good judge in grand style and with much energy and thought. "The Monongehela of Old" was first published in 1859 for private use as he did not get to finish it becoming paymaster of the army in the Civil War, and later finished by his daughter E. V. Blaine in 1892. Who knows just how much more information would of been provided since it is said in the Preface by James Hadden in 1910, that he intended for twice as much material as it has in its present condition.

    Here was a perceptive person of understanding who we should be able to agree was a final authority on many matters pertaining to our local and regional history. This is all the more intriguing when reading his early chapters on the origins of our culture, some of his own speculations and educated conjectures and the influence of the Indians and earlier peoples.

    Lesser mentions might include  John W. Jordan's editing of "Genealogical and Personal History of the Allegheny Valley, Pennsylvania", from the Librarian of the Historical Society of the state itself, in 3 volumes in 1913, and possibly such works as "The History of the Pennsylvania Railroad" by one William Bender Wilson, privately printed, also in the apparently meaningful year of 1913. There are many more beyond the scope of this article.

  John Newton Boucher

   Mostly, all I was able to discover on this particular historian, who penned a valuable book, "Old and New Westmoreland", was, that he was born to Hiram and Abigal Boucher on Oct. 12, 1854, in Ligonier, Pa., the community that houses the justly famed Fort Ligonier which I've posted an article on years ago.  He married May Hargnett and and was a practicing attorney where he later died in his late 70's in Greensburg, the seat of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, shortly after a fall from his porch, on April 14, 1933. Boucher is buried in the Ligonier Valley Cemetery..

    John Lacock

    Professor John Kennedy Lacock. (Nov. 21, 1871- Mar. 8, 1933), is a bit of an exception in the sense of being much a part of the early twentieth century. He gets the nod in this formidable list because of his tremendous influence, especially on a subject dear to the blog - the Braddock Road, the Cumberland Road and Route 40. He also published a book on Boston's historic landmarks. According to, his parents were, Isaac Clark and Catherine Bell Lacock and he is buried in Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church Cemetery. He also compiled a quality map of Braddock's route in 1912, partly from Middleton that included certain improvements, (first published in Olden Time II, pg. 528).

    Lacock was originally from Washington, Pennsylvania. He was the former assistant of Canonsburg's Jefferson Academy of Washington County with close connections to Harvard University. Lacock did lectures around the state, was involved in many organizations and led the way with a large number of influential people; a very knowledgeable fellow indeed, he conducted expeditions over what he termed 'the old Braddock Road', a term with some meaning. One was in 1907 and the other in 1909. What a great mind for detail, in spite of a few mistakes along the way. Lacock was instrumental in providing much needed attention to the matter he specialized in, whether speaking at a college gathering, a high school gymnasium, or a local church and explaining the huge undertaking General Braddock made in the history books in building a road with the help of young George Washington from Cumberland to Braddock's Field, which yet led to an amazing British and colonial defeat. He also introduced some famous postcards illustrated from Ernest Weller's photographs, whom he hired for the task. These were taken of the key camp sites and some of the more picturesque, scenic views showing memorable areas of the old road. They were quite popular and were utilized in Robert Bruce's, 'The National Road.'.

   This historian, alas, died a rather tragic figure after experiencing a fall in his elderly years while  investigating Half King's Rocks off the Jumonville Road in Fayette County, back in the day.


  As much as we are indebted to modern historians, and their work cannot be disregarded, without the concern and knowledge of the older stalwarts of dedicated research, we would never have the resources to tackle even a fair description of historical matters of these two counties. They were those special folks who treasured and celebrated such a variety of subjects describing our foundations and heritage. Although one has to freely admit their research was not necessarily always without errors, and some of the material collected can appear a bit on the dry side, yet the great depth of knowledge possessed led to a thorough listing of local industry, early settlers, and vast amounts of stories of places detailed so well, within the neighborhoods of people who live here and pass through their boundaries almost every day on our busy way to work, school, or whatever.

   Oh sure, there would be a certain amount of information available in some form or another from other sources such as the occasional old newspaper articles, but not near the proclivity of the specific, explanatory stuff from those that lived here and knew about them and their unique concerns. I feel these fellows of boundless energy and enthusiasm still matter very much in our day and age, since they were intimately connected to the places they studied and loved so heartily. After all, did these men not walk these same streets nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, travel around by horse and carriage, inquiries always on their lips and ideas playing on their minds, carefully documenting what they saw and heard, visiting all they knew with indefatigable questions until they received as many answers as possibly could be uncovered? We can be truly grateful for this information so easily avaliable to us and at our fingertips.

    In fact, the names of the old historians should be on the tongue of every school child and every teacher, even far beyond the confines of southwestern Pennsylvania. They were indeed influential and well known in the nineteenth century. In fact, every citizen should of heard of and read of the books written by their hand. The authorities of our modern state are hopefully as very proud to acknowledge the important and invaluable manner that the early roads of thought so paved the way to our understanding. Contributing so heavily to our sometimes troubled, but sublime estate and learning institutions.

   So stating, if anyone has difficulty in finding these old books, or if they may not be online in some form, which a few of them surely are at this time, please consider a trip to the local or regional library. Either way, it will be well worth the time spent! And as you make the drive around, think of the many landmarks which remain, and how fortunate it is to be able to learn of them. Sadly, there are a substantial amount of important sites which are lost and forever removed from our lives, even as these men have long ago passed on to their reward.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Jeff Hann Interview

     Below, my friend, Jeff Hann, responds enthusiastically to a series of 10 questions posed by me.

     In case anyone does not recall or hasn't read the older posts (shame on you!) back in late 2014, Jeff Hann discovered what is very plausibly portions of the Turkey Foot Road up on Quail Hill and  old Hawk Road. Closely connected to this, Mr. Dietle, Mr. Hann, Kim Brown and myself were interviewed by the editor with the Mt. Pleasant Journal. Jeff Hann, Lannie Dietle, and I were doing fieldwork together a few years ago and located a further portion of this ancient and storied roadbed, while Jeff later found yet another part of the TFR as well. This was a unique historical accomplishment, especially toward our local region.

    I also submitted an article, I believe it was in the spring of 2015, with Jeff's help and Lannie's guidance for the Bullskin Historical Society Newsletter. This apparently proved quite popular which described the more exciting highlights and their various implications.

    If there are any answers, (or questions for that matter), which fans of the blog and this detailed subject are not totally familiar with or aware of, please take a few moments to refer to these links:

      Turkey Foot Road Remnants South Of Quail Hill Near Hawk Road

      The Forgotten Turkey Foot Road in Bullskin Township

      Any other comments or inquiries can be made through the blog or send an email to Now let's get under way:


                     Interview Questions

1. How have you and your family been doing and what have you been up to lately?

Everyone's good, you know how it is after you get so old ,everything basically stays the same, go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat!  HAHAHA!  But seriously, work seems to be the main focus these days, along with just meeting up with friends on weekends and some evenings for dinner and a few drinks.

2. I sure understand where you're coming from. While I was excited to have the experience in late 2014 of walking much of the route with you on two seperate occasions, once in the presence of Lannie Dietle, author of "In Search of the Turkey Foot Road", how does it feel in retrospect of the last few years having discovered a part of the history of the Turkey Foot Road? Does this knowledge still have any major impact on your life?

  I'm still excited about it and still a little taken aback by the whole experience. At first I thought, ahhh no big deal , but when Lannie Dietle actually flew in from Texas to walk several different locations with you and I it kind of hit home that this was a big deal. I take pleasure in the fact that Lannie named me in his book and referred to that part of the TFR as "The Jeff Hann portion of the Turkey Foot Rd." As far as having any impact on my life , not really , other than the fact that I spend a lot of time thinking about where in the hell does that road go after leaving the Shultz property and heading for Dexter to the crossing of Jacobs creek. Hopefully some day somebody will find a reference on an old property deed so it will ease my mind!

3. It was very exciting and intriguing and I agree, historically, it was indeed a big deal; we can only hope more information will some day come to light. 

   As I am aware you do snow removal in the winter and I personally feel we are fortunate to have you in these key positions as an Auditor for Bullskin and Upper Tyrone townships, could you give a basic description of  your duties and have they changed any since you began the job?
  I'm no longer an Auditor for Bullskin Twp.  I lost the bid for re-election 2 years ago. But in all honesty, I didn't lose any sleep over not being re-elected. Although it was a pleasure to serve the people of Bullskin for the six years I was Auditor, I just don't enjoy politics and the election process. 

 As far as being road foreman for Upper Tyrone Twp. the duties are a little bit of everything, plowing snow and salting, mowing grass at several locations and along the roads, replacing drain pipes and culverts, minor paving, maintaining  trucks, heavy equipment , and mowing equipment, minor repairs around the buildings and even scraping up roadkill now and again. I'm sure I forgot some things but we try to stay busy and do as much work as possible with the resources we have.  As far as change , I think the job will always be consistent with some minor changes here and there.

4. It sounds like you are still involved with a fairly hefty amount of responsibility to go around! 

   I'd like to ask, in what manner did the familiarity of knowing people and places help with the different aspects of TFR research in Bullskin Township?

  Knowing people and places was a huge help, without that I don't think it would've been possible to do the research that was done. It's so much easier to ask someone for access to their property or to look at their deed if you know them personally. Knowing the area and the terrain was also a huge benefit for the fact that you know they weren't going cut a road  a certain way because of steep hills or big ravines or creek crossings.

5. Is there a specific part of the Turkey Foot route which intrigues you most, particularly concerning the TFR branches from Mick Lilley's on toward Spruce Hollow and northeast of the Shultz property?

 The very last visible part of the TFR  leaving the Shultz property heading north is very intriguing as to why it snakes around the big rock ledge to the east. When looking at the current Breakneck Road it seems that would have been the more logical route especially when both Breakneck Road and the TFR crossed Butler Run at almost the exact same point. But we can only attempt to guess how much the landscape has changed since the TFR was cut through that area.

6. Was working with the GPS and directional coordinates easy, and was this acumen developed naturally (something I was slow to grasp) ?

 Absolutely not , I'm horrible with GPS and directional coordinates although it is a great tool  I'm like you, very slow to grasp . It's much easier for me to relate an area with a landmark or someone's name than it is to try to find it with coordinates.

7. I am curious if you had any recent breakthroughs in the development of the route to Connellsville beyond the likelihood of a connection to Breakneck Road?

 I have two different ideas on the road to Connellsville branching off of the TFR although neither have been proven. (1. On the Melish map the road shows a fork at the top of Rich Hill and  if you're heading north on the road, the right part of the fork being the TFR, the center of the fork being the road to Perryopolis which I believe to be part of present day Englishman Hill Rd. and the left being the part to Connellsville by way of an old road bed found below the present day Rich Hill stone quarry which meets up with the present day route of Breakneck Rd. near Polecat Hollow Rd. and then to Connellsville.   

   (2. There is also another road bed branching off of the center part of the fork described in paragraph one, being Englishman Hill Rd. at the sharp S turn at the top of Englishman Hill and heading south west to Connellsville. There are still many parts of that route still used as private driveways and a large portion of it is very visible on google earth .  But again nothing has been proven.

8 A perceptive answer, Jeff and I could only add that is a meaningful description of the two probable routes involved. 

    Do you think it plausible that Medsgar Road from Rt. 982 to Spaugy Mill consisted, at least to an extent,  in a branch of the TFR?

 No , my personal opinion is that Medsgar Road was a short cut, so to speak, from the Detwieler Mill to the Spaugy Mill. The TFR would have been dryer and shorter to stay the course it was headed on to the Spaugy mill from the known existing part at the end of the Shultz property.  I personally believe the TFR is part of the now existing Breakneck Rd. and on through to the now existing East Keefer Rd. to the Spaugy Mill. I can't prove it, but it makes sense to me. Again hopefully some day we'll find some kind of solid proof to tell us where exactly it does go.

9. For what it's worth, I approve of your educated assessment. In speculating, I sometimes ponder  further about the whole picture as Lannie Dielte has provided in his Addendum some solid evidence for the theory for two branches, possibly more, of the TFR through Bullskin and entering Upper Tyrone, and according to old historians, heading to Dexter and ton to Cherry Hill and Ruffsdale in Westmoreland County.

   In your opinion, is the Hatfield/Lindsey route or branch then, from a later date than the reported Spaugy MIll route?

I think the Hatfield/Lindsey route is later than the Spaugy route for the fact that the portion of the TFR that is now known at the end of the Shultz property would have passed by the Hatfield/Lindsay route. Add to that the knowledge that we already have about where it crossed at the Spaugy mill and headed for Jacobs Creek, I have to believe that the original TFR went to Spaugy Mill first.

10. Fascinating stuff as I've often wondered a lot about that situation.

     Finally, as early on, Lannie Dietle tended to help me to orient the blog better toward deeper historical info, whether or not that was necessarily his actual intention, I have recently reread his hefty book for research purposes. The last question is: have you eventually read it through, and while collaborating with him in the past, especially in consideration of  his intimate input on the subject, what observations did his influence leave you with?

I don't think I ever finished the entire book, there's just so much and to be quite honest I really focused on the section through Fayette County. I still read it now and then just to refresh my mind and to try figure out other portions of the road in the areas that I'm familiar with around Fayette and Somerset counties.  Lannie taught me a lot about old roads, such as the deep trenches they left behind from so much use with horse and buggies and how terrain didn't always deter them the way it would me as far as choice of path. He also taught me something about myself , he said something to the order of , "Jeff has a natural propensity for incisive analysis." Who knew ? HA HA!

      If you don't mind my saying, likewise, I mostly focused on studying Fayette County as the other voluminous southeastern material is so in depth and in regions we are not very knowledgeable about, and am totally in agreement, Lannie Dietle has a way of teaching a person much, sometimes profoundly, and giving new insights into ourselves, as happened with myself too. You've helped in your own way also in my search for historical realities.

      In summing up:
A big thank you to Jeff Hann for your candor and meaningful answers toward my request concerning this post. Your cooperation is much appreciated and will help add to the Turkey Foot Road articles and further interest while enlightening visitors and fans of 'Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History', and that certainly is a large part of what is discussed here. Lastly, I can honestly state, I thoroughly enjoyed this most recent collaboration and wish you all the best!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Excursion To Bedford Part 3: Return Thriough Somerset

     In Part Two the items purchased at the Fort Bedford Museum and Hoke-E-Geez were shown. Here in Part 3, I will offer a brief synopsis of the trip home to Fayette County via Somerset County. Maybe you'll be satisfied to learn that, yes we did make it back in one piece and didn't get too lost!

     The Return Through Somerset

    We needed a fair amount of daylight to find a place where my maternal great grandfather once called home. His name was Israel Hoover, and my family's traditions claimed he was a brave man, in fact, fearless.
   The second part of my travels involved getting through a few townships in Somerset County and Berlin, then Garrett (named for John Garrett, one time President of the B&O Railroad) a borough on the Great Allegheny Passage. Then, over to Forge Road, (there are technically two Forge Roads, by the way, one is much further toward the southeast of our  destination), where my great grandfather once lived. This became a quest to see the place special to him and his family.

   This little adventure was taken from Garrett by way of Berlin St. and crossing the Casselman Gorge. This direction becomes Johnson Road heading west then south, there's a part of the distance covered on Old Mule Road as well and then a right onto Laurel Falls Road. And finally taking the right at the sign onto Forge Road with the intimidating name of Spook Run to the north-northeast. An interesting addition to my earlier plans; keep in mind we were traveling the route fairly late in the afternoon. This was bound to be a dirt road and we didn't come prepared enough with a four-wheel drive or off-road vehicle, therefore could only go a half mile or so before the conditions became too rough. According to the maps, there is no real outlet to the north. It would be nice to get back there some day and really explore the Spook Run region...during daylight hours, preferably - lol. Still, I enjoyed the accomplishment of getting that much closer to where my ancestor, Israel Hoover, spent a part of his lifetime.

   Here are a few photos on the circuitous meandering route to this sparsely populated region:

The high hills of Somerset.



                 Below are a few maps to help pinpoint the areas of Somerset County I was heading through and then retracing the miles back home:           
Map showing the route from Garrett to Forge Road.



The sign for Berlin.

A day overcast with drizzle early became pleasant and sunny.


South on the old Forge Road


Yet another joyous construction site.

An old roadside tree in Somerset County

    If you follow the blog monthly, then you might of noticed this post appeared due with a bit of a finale a while ago, "back around  the bend." I think there was a small hint that Part Two did not end the whole story. Well, it wasn't forgotten like so much of our old regional history rends to be, it only needed to be written up with a few photos and maps.

   This completes Part Three of the round trip we took from northwestern Fayette County on through Somerset and into Bedford and returning by evening into Fayette.

   Fayette County Again

   I won't go into detail about getting back into the more familiar territory into Bullskin westward and back home toward Upper Tyrone township. Much of the route is referred to elsewhere in one way or another. This took the usual course through Springfield Township and a stretch of Rt. 381 to Jones Mill and old Rt. 31 which includes a slice of Donegal Township, which approaches southwestern Westmoreland County, though the Jones Mill area. By the way, the township is separate from the Borough of Donegal. Also, a brief post on Fayette County's Springfield and Saltlick townships was posted in June of 2014, the same month as the Excursion to  Somerset article which provides a story on Bakersville. Well, this was a nice day for a jaunt in late 2016, fondly remembered and, all in all, an enjoyable experience.

    Join me on the next post for another exciting interview. This time, we will examine the thoughts of a knowledgeable local fellow that should prove informative and entertaining.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *