Inne at Watson's Choice
Tourist Guide Book

Early Local History

 
 
Top Dozen Attractions

Architecture

Local History

Recreation

Mountain Area

All Attractions

All Themes

Miscellaneous Information

Attractions
Addison Toll House
Bear Run Nature Reserve
Braddock's Grave
Chalk Hill Farm Museum
Christmas Shoppe
Coal & Coke Heritage Ctr
Country Charm
The Cross
CW Klay Winery
Dunlap Creek Bridge
Fallingwater
Flat Iron Building
Fort Mason Museum
Fort Necessity
Friendship Hill
Hazelbaker
Historic Brownsville
Historic Connellsville
Historic Dawson
Historic Perryopolis
Historic Uniontown
Historic Hopwood
Inne at Watson's Choice
Jumonville Glen
Jumonville Methodist Youth Ctr
Kentuck Knob
Laurel Caverns
Linden Hall
Meason House
Mt Saint Macrina
National Road
Nemacolin Castle
Nemacolin Woodlands
New Geneva Stoneware
Ohiopyle State Park
Pennsylvania Room
Point Lookout
Scenery Hill
Searight Toll House
State Theatre
Stone House
Summit Inn
Touchstone Center for Arts
Village of Shoaf
Washington Grist Mill
Washington Tavern
West Overton Museums
Wharton Furnace
Youghiogheny River / Lake
Youghiogheny River Trail
Youghiogheny Station

Themes
Antiques
Architecture
Biking
Coal and Coke Era
Early Local History
Fall Foliage
Fishing
French & Indian War 250th Anniversary
Genealogy
Glass
Golfing
Hiking
Hospitals
Gen. George C Marshall
Morgantown WV
Mountain Area
National Road
Nature
Opulence of Coal & Coke Era
Pittsburgh
Skiing
Trivia
Geo. Washington Slept Here
Whitewater Adventures

 

The French and Indian War - Fayette County's Role

Before the United States was a nation in the 18th century, the largely unsettled land that is now southwestern Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley was a disputed area where both Britain and France were claiming ownership. Both countries recognized the increasing importance of the area and tensions were climbing.

In 1853, a 21 year old George Washington was dispatched by Virginia Govenor Dinwiddie to the French Fort Le Boeuf (north of present-day Pittsburgh) to deliver a formal demand for the withdrawal of all French forces to Canada. The French refused but allowed Washington return to Virginia. In his travels to and from Fort Le Boeuf, Washington passed through this area on a route which would be used in the next two succeeding years. Much of that route, in fact, was the precursor to the National Road and present-day US Route 40.

Gov. Dinwiddie,outraged by the French disregard for British claims, was able to garner the funds to raise and equip troops to build a fort at the Forks of the Ohio (present-day Pittsburgh). In early 1754, as the Britsh commenced construction on the fort, a French force captured the site and continued construction naming it Fort Duquesne.

Meanwhile, Washington was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and placed second in command of a force to set out for the fort being constructed at the Forks of the Ohio. During the trip, Washington's commanding officer was killed after his horse threw him, and Washington assumed command. He cut a wagon road over the Appalachian Mountains following existing Indian trails, that for the first time since creation of the world, carried wheels into the Ohio country.

On April 20, Washington was informed that the French had seized the fort that the British had begun at the Forks of the Ohio. Soon after, Washington recieved word that a French detachment was on its way to "strike the first English they see". Arriving at a place known as The Great Meadows, about 10 miles east of present day Uniontown and 60 miles south of the new Fort Duquesne, Washington thought it prudent to entrench his detachment.

While at Great Meadows, Washington recieved message by Indian allies that French forces were spotted nearby. Washington and 40 of his men marched all night when they found the French camp at dawn, May 28, 1754. How the skirmish began, no one quite knows. However, 10 French including their commanding officer Ensign Jummonville were killed, and 22 captured by Washington's forces, with one escaping. This brief battle ultimately sparked the start of the French and Indian War in America and the Seven Years War in Europe.

Washington realized the French would soon likely attack and moved quickly to protect his troops by building a crude stockade dubbed Fort Necessity at Great Meadows. It was a small round stockade surrounded by shallow trenches. Strategically, its location was not good in spite of Washington's pronuocement it was "a charming place for a battle"; it was built in a natural bowl commanded by wooded hillsides. It was hardly completed when the English Indian allies vanished.

Meanwhile, an escaped survivor of the Jummonville encounter returned to Fort Duquesne and reported the ambush. The French dispatched a 900-man force of troops, and their Indian allies.

When the French arrived on July 3, 1774, Washington formed his men in front of the trenches, hoping for a battle in the open. The French however did not take the bait. Taking cover, they fired on the English from the trees. The Virginians fell back inside the stockade, but it provided little protection. Surrounded by his attackers during a downpour, the young Washington lost a third of his men to enemy fire. By nightfall, half of the defenders were out of action. They had broken into the stores of rum, and those not wounded were drunk. French attackers quickly overcame fort necessity. Washington was forced to request surrender terms, July 4th, 1754.

In the noblest European tradition, the French allowed the English to bury their thirty-one men who had died. Washington and his men were allowed to made their way back to Virginia. Unfortunately for Washington, he signed a surrender document (written in French which was poorly translated) which admitted that he had "assasinated" Jummonville. With this done, no English flag was left flying west of the Allegheny Mountains!

In 1755, one year after Geo. Washington's defeat at Fort Necessity and the start of the French and Indian War, the British were resolved to eliminate the French from North America. British officer Major General Edward Braddock was selected to lead the campaign. Braddock personally commanded a regimen to attack the French at Fort Duquesne. Washington accompanied Braddock as an aide. On July 9, 1755, while the expedition was enroute to Fort Dusquesne, the British were surprised by French and Indian forces which totally overwhelmed the British contingent. The elite British force suffered horrendous losses and were forced to retreat. Although Braddock had been schooled in the art of Warfare in England, his tactics were no match for the French and their Indian allies. Braddock himself was among the severely wounded. On their retreat on July 13, the British camped about one mile west of the former Fort Necessity when Braddock succumbed to his injuries. The general was buried in the road to obliterate any traces of the grave's whereabouts, fearing that a marked grave would only permit the Indians to uncover and desecrate the remains. The army then continued its retrat on to eastern Pennsylvania.

EARLY SETTLEMENT (1750-1830)

Though Fayette County was organized in 1783, the first settlers arrived over 30 years earlier. Few in number, these early pioneers became entangled in a power play between the English and French for control of southwestern Pennsylvania during the 1750s. Consequently most owners were forced to temporarily abandon their settlements until the French were finally expelled in 1758. The first major influx of settlers, mainly from Virginia and Maryland migrated to Fayette County after ~1763. Soon after, the first permanent log houses and barns began to appear on the local landscape.

With an abundance of arable land and plentiful springs, Fayette County early became adapted to an agricultural subsistence. Massive stone and later brick farmhouses, denoting a sense of stability and permanence, were the common dwellings of these early agriculturalists. A related industry, the milling of wheat, corn, and other grains was carried out along most streams where adequate water power could be secured.

The agrarian economy also stimulated the growth of numerous tanneries, for treating animal hides, and to a lesser extent fulling, carding, and spinning mills for wool and flax processing. The discovery of abundant iron ore deposits resulted in the construction of at least 23 blast furnaces for smelting iron. The extraction of these ores then gave way to the construction of locally operated forges, foundries, rolling mills, and slitting mills for rendering the iron into marketable products. Architectural masterpieces such as Isaac Meason's Mount Braddock home give testimony to the wealth and power attributed to the early iron masters who owned and controlled the mighty furnaces.

The local glass industry which later brought national recognition to the upper Monongahela River valley was first established when Albert Gallatin opened his New Geneva glassworks in 1794. Within the next 20 years numerous glass factories were erected at various points along the river.

The rising population created a need for building materials which spurred early timbering activities primarily in the heavily forested mountain regions. As a result, sawmills sprang up like wild flowers throughout the county and proliferated well into the 19th century. As an offshoot, the manufacturing of paper also played an important role in the county's early development.

Undoubtedly the most significant of Fayette County's natural resources and the prime stimulus for settlement and eventual industrialization was access to the area's river systems. The migration of settlers to such western destinations as Kentucky and other points along the great Mississippi River brought innumerable travelers to the shores of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers. Consequently, the beginnings of major boat building industries developed in Brownsville and Bridgeport, where mainly keel boats and steamboats were produced, and Connellsville where flat boats for the more turbulent waters of the Youghiogheny were manufactured.

Another major factor contributing to the economic growth of the county was the construction and subsequent improvement of various roadways. The opening of the National Road (current U.S. Route 40) through Fayette County between 1816-18 precipitated an extensive migration of people and goods from Cumberland, Maryland to the Ohio country and other westward regions. During the heyday of the Old Pike a multitude of wagon stands and stagecoach taverns offered a variety of accommodations to the travelers in need of rest, repairs, and sustenance. With increased river transportation and the coming of the National Road, such early settlements as Brownsville, Uniontown, and Connellsville began to prosper as the need for goods and services to accommodate the flow of emigrants increased.

EARLY INDUSTRIAL ERA (1830-1880)

The period between 1830-80 was one of great economic expansion throughout the county. As means of transportation improved, advancements in industry were inevitable and, locally produced goods found their way to outside markets. Between 1832 and 1834 the National Road was macadamized by the federal government, but as constant repairs brought excessive financial burden, responsibility for the road's maintenance fell to the individual states in 1835. At that time six tollgates were erected at various locations along the highway in Fayette and Washington counties. In 1850, over 18,000 travelers on the National Road were transported via stage lines to and from the Monongahela River. This demonstrates not only the economic impact of the National Road but also of the developing steamboat industry of the Brownsville and Bridgeport areas. Although the first documented steamboat launching in Bridgeport occurred in 1814, improvements in navigability of the river system greatly stimulated the industry. Between 1836 and 1844 the Monongahela Navigation Company completed the construction of a series of locks and dams through Fayette County for the express purpose of improving slack water navigation from Pittsburgh to the West Virginia line.

The opportunity to export agricultural products out of, the county enabled the farming industry to attract new settlers. Throughout the county, large farming complexes were producing such marketable crops as wheat, corn rye, barley, oats, and potatoes. Some areas were better suited to commercial stock and sheep raising while dairy' farming held but minimal importance.

The opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad across the Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh in 1852 sounded the death knell for the National Road as the majority of traffic was then diverted from its route. Consequently, numerous taverns and other service related businesses closed. A decline was also felt in Brownsville's steamboat industry. However, when the Pittsburgh and Connellsville Railroad was brought into the county in 1855 and extended to Uniontown in 1860, a new wave of economic advancement glimmered on the horizon. In addition to its future impact on the industrial explosion of the early 20th century, the railroad brought to Fayette County another, more diverse form of industry - tourism. Completion of the B&O Railroad to Falls City: (present Ohiopyle) in 1871 brought considerable numbers of tourists to the region, thus transforming the once isolated mountainous terrain into a thriving resort area.

Other early industries were now maturing into more, mechanized, and highly profitable enterprises. Grist and saw mills, some utilizing new innovations such as steam power were now occupying positions along river banks to maximize the water power potential. Likewise, increases in agricultural production coupled with an expanding market stimulated the growth of numerous distilleries and breweries which were clustered mainly around the newly emerging urban centers. Lumbering also continued to play a vital economic role during the golden age of boat building. A marked expansion of the craft and cottage industries which included blacksmiths, saddlers, cabinetmakers, tailors etc., responded to the needs of a growing countywide population.

The New Geneva area had developed into a major pottery producing region by ca. 1860. The finished products including jugs, jars, and other utilitarian stonewares were shipped down the Ohio and eventually found destinations as far south as New Orleans.

These developments in industry and transportation, combined with an increasing population, stimulated the growth of new commercial districts and urban neighborhoods not only in Brownsville, Uniontown, and Connellsville, but also in the smaller towns such as Fayette City, Masontown, Smithfield, etc.

See the Coal and Coke Era to read about the next significant block of Fayette County history.

Attractions

Related Links