The Extended Overholt Family Foundation
Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield, Founder

   
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Broad Ford
Broad Ford is the location of the remnants of the A. Overholt and Company distillery, commonly known as The Overholt Distillery at Broad Ford. To those who know the history, this enterprise was considered to be one of the most important distilleries in Western Pennsylvania history. In its finer days, the distillery provided hundreds of jobs for local citizens, and operated long enough to provide an impressive amount of financial prosperity and stability for the families of the men and women who drew paychecks there.

The most famous product of the Broad Ford distillery was Old Overholt, a distinctive Pennsylvania pure rye whiskey named for master distiller Abraham Overholt, and launched around 1896, when grandson Henry Clay Frick had control of the business. The quality and fame of Abraham's rye whiskey did not fall victim to Prohibition laws. In fact, A. Overholt and Company maintained a full production schedule during the era when only a few distilleries were permitted to produce beverage alcohol for "medicinal purposes."

The Broad Ford distillery site is currently in a very sad state (see articles and photos at Karen's Branches), but its signature product, Old Overholt, still lives on! Sadly, it is not distilled and aged in Western Pennsylvania. The folks at Beam Global hold the trademark rights (see Beam Inc.), and they designate the beverage as a straight rye whiskey. Judging by the attention they are now giving Old Overholt on their web site, perhaps they are learning to appreciate its history.

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The Story of Broad Ford
Native Americans gave Broad Ford its name, and a lot of important events in American history are associated with this "crossing-place," not the least being its use by a young George Washington, who crossed the Youghiogheny River there, while on his way to accidentally start the French and Indian War. In fact, young George is believed to be the first white man to set foot on the ground whereon the Broad Ford Overholt Distillery was built.

If you are looking at a map of Western Pennsylvania, you will find Broad Ford at the top of a great horseshoe shaped curve in the Youghiogheny River, just up the river from Connellsville. It is roughly seven miles south of West Overton, "as the crow flies." In 1856, Abraham Overholt's distillery at West Overton was already into its 46th year of business success, when his son, Jacob, and his nephew, Henry O. Overholt (son of Abraham's older brother Martin), decided to launch a second and larger distillery complex at Broad Ford. History books credit Jacob as the master builder at Broad Ford, but after three years of intense activitiy, he died in the spring of 1859. Abraham bought into the project, partnering with his nephew, and operated the Broad Ford facility as A. Overholt and Company, maintaining his interest until his death in January 1870.


During the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, several Western Pennsylvania distilleries were "absorbed" by large corporations, and then summarily closed down. The Overholt distillery complex at Broad Ford came to an end quite suddenly, as did the Dillinger distillery at nearby Ruffs Dale (see The Overholt-Dillinger Connection at Karen's Branches). After that, there were a few owners who cannibalized the buildings for anything that could be ripped out and sold, including its copper distilling equipment and whiskey-aged wood. There were absentee property owners who failed to protect and preserve the site from vandalism and the ravages of weather and seasonal floods. The future of the site has been seriously questioned for decades, as one building after another has been demolished. But in recent years, the region has developed a growing tourist industry, with care given to natural resources and waterways, and new wilderness and bicycle trails. Local interest in developing Broad Ford has steadily increased, and we shall see what happens next.

To learn more about the A. Overholt and Company distillery at Broad Ford, visit The Overholt Family Tree ~~ Karen's Branches, where you will find many articles and photographs from the past and present.


The Broad Ford Group Broad Ford Blog
Hosted by Karens Branches

You are cordially invited to visit the Broad Ford Blog,
a new site hosted by Karen's Branches.

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